Lucky escape as massive oak falls in Midhurst

The fallen oak in Midhurst
The fallen oak in Midhurst

A MIDHURST woman had a miraculous escape when a massive oak tree crashed to the ground close to the Cowdray Ruins at Midhurst.

Hellen Drake, of Heathfield Green, was out looking for acorns and fungi when the 30 tonne, 60-foot high oak thudded to the ground next to her.

“If I had looked up when I heard the crack, I think I would be dead,” she told the Observer, “but I just kept my head down and ran.”

Hellen had been searching the grass beneath two huge oak trees, in front of the Midhurst Sports Association Grounds, when her attention was caught by some mushrooms.

“I bent down to photograph them when I heard this unbelievably loud noise.”

She immediately started running but stumbled and fell as the branches crashed around her.

“At first everything went dark, then I realised it was still sunlight and I saw the huge oak had fallen behind me.”

Hellen said she had been saved by the fact she was behind a second oak and the bulk of the enormous oak crashed into that.

“I was so shocked I couldn’t think straight and I was covered in mud from where I fell,” she said.

Her husband Einar returned to the scene with her. He told the Observer: “If she had moved a split second later, she would not have survived. The tree fell less than a foot from her shoulder.”

Head forester for the Cowdray Estate Donald Macdonald told the Observer: “The lady clearly had a very lucky escape. This was a big tree of some 30 tonnes.

“She was the other side of the other oak and ran in the right direction.

“We don’t know why the tree came down.

“All we can say is it was old age.”