A historic tree has smashed through a wall on Washington Village Green, narrowly missing passers-by.
Work has begun to clear the giant limb which is from the same 400-year-old beech which ploughed through a guest house four years ago.
Oliver Manley, 18, had been in the path of the falling tree just moments before it destroyed a stone wall at 1pm today, next to The Green Florist and Tearoom.
“I was looking at the plants outside and had just gone back in to serve some customers when the floor started shaking,” explained the barista who works at The Green.
“All the paintings on the wall started shaking and I could see the look in the eyes of the customers, they were terrified,” he added. “We heard this loud noise and it took seconds to crash through the wall. If anyone had been walking past, I dread to think what would have happened.
“People had been walking past just 30 seconds before. We think it’s a giant branch of the same tree which went through the bedrooms of the guest house. A tree surgeon had been out last week looking at it as there’s been problems with it, he’d trimmed some of it. I heard that if he hadn’t done that, the weight of it on one side meant it could have fallen sideways through the florists.”
It brought back terrifying memories for Terry Henderson and his wife Sheila Troupe-Henderson who were lucky to escape uninjured after another limb from the tree, thought to be one of the oldest on Wearside, fell through their home.
The tree caused £200,000 damage to Ye Olde Cop Shop Guest House when it was ripped up by strong wings in 2011.
The couple had been sitting in the living room when they heard a horrific bang and felt their property shake.
Branches smashed through the building, into bedrooms and hallways, while roots from the ancient tree caused the guest house’s floors to lift.
Speaking after today’s incident, Terry said: “We have been telling the council for ages that this tree should be cut down. This time it has fallen right across the Green, it could have killed somebody as people were walking past at the time.
“We were just having dinner when we heard it. We thought ‘oh no, not again.’ We were terrified it was going to come through the guest house again.”
Work is ongoing to clear the limb which is from a tree in the neighbouring Hill House Farm.
A spokesman from Sunderland City Council said: “A member of staff on grass-cutting duties heard a loud crack at approximately 1pm today when he was working in the Washington Village Green area.
“He recognised that parts of a large beech tree had come down and immediately contacted colleagues, including tree surgeons. Staff have helped clear and make the area safe as parts of the fall had covered a footpath.”