War of the walnut tree: Mom faces court as she cuts branches in her yard… even though nuts could kill her allergic six-year-old daughter
- Mother Chantal Beck wants to cut branches of walnut tree to protect daughter
- She faces court as she defies the council seeking a tree conservation order
- Council cited concerns over tree health damage and objections from villagers
A mother could be sued for pruning a ‘beautiful’ walnut tree that could kill her allergic daughter.
The 55-meter-tall tree hangs over Chantal Beck’s backyard and threatens her six-year-old daughter Beau, who has a deadly nut allergy.
Mrs. Beck, a mother of two, wants to prune the branches to protect her daughter when she plays outside.
But the 41-year-old faces a lawsuit if she defies her council, who wants to impose a tree conservation order.
The municipality has expressed concern about the damage to the tree’s health and the concerns of a dozen villagers, one of whom said cutting the tree would damage the ‘rural character’ of the village.
However, Mrs Beck fears her daughter could choke – Beau suffered anaphylactic shock in the garden of their home in Trowse, Norfolk, in 2019.
Mrs. Beck said: ‘She had swollen ears, swollen lips and clutched at her throat. Then she had hives on her body. The reaction isn’t just itchy skin, it’s anaphylactic.’ The 100-year-old tree produces a bountiful annual crop of “especially large” walnuts, villagers said.
It’s on the neighbor’s land, which is part of a conservation area, and every fall Mrs. Beck has to collect buckets full of walnuts from the lawn where Beau and her youngest daughter, five-year-old Bonnie, often play. She added: ‘It didn’t occur to me that [Beau] could have a reaction, as she couldn’t crack a walnut open, so she was unlikely to eat one.
“But they mulch, and when the girls play in the yard, it gets on her fingers and hands, then on her face, and before you know it, it’s in her system.” Ms Beck said she didn’t want the tree cut down because it’s a ‘beautiful part of nature’, but just wanted to reduce the risk of harm to her daughter.
She was granted permission to reduce the tree by 13 feet in 2018, but the permission has expired.
She has now asked South Norfolk Council for permission to reduce the height by 16 feet and spread the branches from 50 feet to 20 feet.
The council declined, citing the “strong feeling and response we’ve received.”
Eleven local residents sent it letters objecting to a trim.
One said: ‘As an artist I draw and photograph it regularly, loving the age and dignity of its perfectly formed crown.’
However, seventeen residents sent the council letters in support of Mrs. Beck. One said: ‘While it will be visually disturbing for some local residents, when you consider the very dangerous effects this could have on the health of a small child, I can’t imagine anyone objecting to this.’
The council has said ‘some pruning work is acceptable’ but a conservation officer said the extent of the work proposed by Ms Beck would lead to ‘disease and decay’.
Lisa Neal, a ward councilor for Trowse, said she reached out to the mother to find a “compromise to help both sides.”
She added: “On the one hand you have Chantal’s daughter with the health consequences, on the other hand people think it is a beautiful tree and they don’t want to cut too much because it could damage or kill the tree .’