A mature plane tree, situated on the pavement of a residential road, collapsed on Christmas Day damaging two homes and a resident’s car, parked in their front driveway.

The incident occurred at about nine o’clock on the evening of Christmas Day 2017 in the busy residential road of Gloucester Road, Hampton. Both homes were occupied at the time, with the inhabitants all enjoying their Christmas festivities. The owner of the house directly opposite the Council-owned tree, James Dingwall, explained that he and some sixteen family and friends were playing games in the back of the house when they heard what they initially thought to be an explosion. Rushing to the front they were surprised to realise that it was in fact a tree lying diagonally across the depressed roof of his wife's car, their lower front windows and their neighbour’s top front windows. Glass and debris were everywhere and they were immensely shocked. Mr Dingwall said, “it was like someone had detonated a bomb.”

Fortunately, nobody was hurt at all despite the obvious potential for serious injury and worse. The lower front windows and sill structures of Mr Dingwall and his next door neighbour’s upper front windows were all smashed through by the large tree. He described how his neighbours had been saying goodbye to their guests at the very moment the tree collapsed and witnessed its descent. Frighteningly, a branch had even brushed past the arm of one departing friend. This detail had made everybody realise how fortunate they had been and shock soon gave way to immense relief.

It was in this spirit that Mr Dingwall’s daughter handed out tea and mince pies to the firemen who arrived soon after the incident. The tree itself was cleared away by the Council on Boxing Day at 10.00 am after a building inspector had assessed the situation at midnight on Christmas Day. The immediate response by all, on such a day of celebration was impressive and those affected were grateful for their professionalism.

The road in question is lined by similar mature trees, planted, it is believed, in about 1910. The fallen tree did not appear to be diseased or dead by the residents. Mr Dingwall explained that there was no particularly strong wind or torrential rain that night and the only clue as to why the tree suddenly collapsed  came from the small, low lying, soggy root ball which was revealed. The tree was also surrounded by tarmac which could have affected root absorption. It is understood that there is concern amongst the other residents on this road as to the stability of the other trees.

Toby Tolson, Hampton School