The owners of a 200-year-old oak tree that will be cut down after being damaged in a suspected ‘tornado’ are hoping to give it a new lease of life, while doing some good for the planet.

A large part of the tree came down during the freak weather event, which struck Tipton St John and Venn Ottery on Saturday evening (December 30).

The fallen limb collided with a telegraph pole on its way down at around 5.30pm, causing power outages in Green Lane and the surrounding area.

Power was restored by National Grid workers in the early hours of Sunday morning, before BT operatives visited to restore residents' internet access.

Sadly, the rest of the tree was deemed unsafe when it was visited by tree surgeons on Monday, so it will need to be cut down.

Its owners, Tracey and Simon West, who run Word Forest, an international charity working to reverse deforestation in Kenya, are offering parts of the tree to people who will be able to make things out of its wood.

This will prevent it being burned, which would release tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) declared the weather event a ‘tornado’ after carrying out a site investigation, it said in a post on social media platform X on Sunday.

The organisation is due to give it a T Scale rating, determining its intensity.

However, the Met Office has not confirmed if it was a tornado because it has not seen evidence of a rotating funnel of air touching the ground.

Mrs West said: “The tornado was so violent and so quick.

“It ripped down one-third of our oak tree. We thought it was 150 years old, but it’s actually around 200 years old.

“The tree is going to have to come down in its entirety, which we’re heartbroken about. We put trees up – we don’t take trees down.”

The 20-metre tall tree was initially misdated by around 50 years because of its stunted growth, which was likely caused by the salt in the sea breeze.

Sidmouth Herald: The tree has been deemed unsafe after sustaining a large wound on Saturday evening.The tree has been deemed unsafe after sustaining a large wound on Saturday evening. (Image: Word Forest)

Mrs West added: “We wanted to see if anybody wanted part of the tree to do anything with it.

“It’s a huge, huge tree, and it’s got several big limbs to it. You could make a bench out of it, or chairs or wooden pots for the garden.

“It’s got a huge amount of carbon locked in it – around 25 tonnes, as a conservative estimate.

“We want to keep it locked in, and the best way to do that is to keep it together.”

Sidmouth Herald: The tree has been deemed unsafe after it sustained damage in the ‘tornado’.The tree has been deemed unsafe after it sustained damage in the ‘tornado’. (Image: Word Forest)

As part of their work, Mr and Mrs West will plant new trees in Kenya to replace the carbon offset it provided.

But because 326 species depend on oak trees for their survival, the loss will have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystem.

“An oak tree like this is a life support machine for nearly 2,500 creatures,” she said.

“The sad thing is that’s come to an end.

“We need to make sure the old trees are protected because they’re a life source for us all.

“Let’s try and give this tree a chance to have a legacy and keep that carbon in.”

After the ‘tornado’, villagers came together to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable – especially those who were left without power.

“The community spirit was wonderful,” said Mrs West.

“But we are truly devastated that this tree has come down and had to be condemned.”

Sidmouth Herald: The ‘tornado’ comes eight months after Venn Ottery and Tipton St John were hit by flash-flooding.The ‘tornado’ comes eight months after Venn Ottery and Tipton St John were hit by flash-flooding. (Image: Shân Merritt)

In May, several East Devon villages, including Venn Ottery and Tipton, plus Newton Poppleford, were affected by flash flooding.

Shân Merritt said: “The mini-tornado caused quite a lot of damage. 

“Trees were knocked down on Venn Ottery green; the top one-third of a conifer in the churchyard came down and damaged a car and two or three garage roofs in Barton Mews, we had two trees down in our garden and tiles were ripped off at least three houses.

“Fortunately, no-one was injured by the flying debris. So what else can the weather gods throw at lovely Venn Ottery?”

Anyone who may be able to rehome part of the West's tree can contact them by emailing