Couple still left shaken a month after tree falls on 17th Century house

By Alice Wright

A retired couple are still counting the cost in mental terms as well as physical a month after a beech tree crashed down onto the thatched roof of their 17th century Leicestershire home during Storm Franklin.

Barbara Wharrier, 78, and her husband Gowan, 79, were sat having a cup of coffee in the kitchen of their home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch when the tree crashed down onto their 450-year-old house.

Barbara said: “We were both pretty shaken, first of all the noise was tremendous and I thought oh dear there’s been a terrible accident outside.

“As I say, we went to the kitchen window and didn’t get any further than that because the roof, rafters, thatching, everything else was coming down the stairs to meet us.”

Two thirds of their house has been compromised, the only rooms not damaged being their bedroom, the dining room and the dressing room.

Barbara added: “I went in on Wednesday (MARCH 16) and I was really quite upset because it was cascading through the lounge ceiling.

“It’s hard, we’ve been there 44 years and you know, you look after a place – I mean imagine if some of your things were smashed or you couldn’t get at them.”

The former teacher recalled when the firemen arrived, and her first thought was to put the milk back in the fridge even though the electricity was going to be switched off.

The couple are currently living in a rented accommodation and could be out of their house for a year.

Barbara said: “I think we’re both struggling and we’re both pretty shaken and I think we got more shaken as we realised what a narrow squeak we’d had. As you start to realise how bad it is, it becomes worse and worse.

“I think now we’re becoming more used to the idea, but I think we’re both pretty shaken.”

Their daughter Claire, who lives in Sydney, Australia, flew over to support her parents. She said: “A silver lining of the pandemic is the fact that everyone now works remotely and works from home.

“The company I work for was completely fine with the idea of me coming over and being in the UK for a couple of months.”

Until then, the couple had not seen their daughter since Christmas 2019.

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