Disney executives take note: this could be your next blockbuster complete with a princess and angry villagers.
Six-year-old Beau Beck has a severe nut allergy and has suffered anaphylaxis in the past.
Her mother, Chantal, wants to trim the 55ft walnut tree that hangs over her backyard in Trowse, Norfolk, so that the walnuts won’t fall and threaten her daughter when she plays outside.
The village council is forbidding the action, citing concerns over damage to the tree’s health and the objections of a dozen villagers, one of whom said trimming the branches would damage the village’s “rural character”.
The 100-year-old tree produces an annual crop of ‘especially large’ walnuts according to local villagers. It grows from a neighbor’s property that is part of a conservation area.
Each year, Ms Beck collects buckets of walnuts from the yard where Beau and her younger sister play.
Said Ms Beck:
It didn’t occur to me that [Beau] might have a reaction, because she couldn’t crack a walnut open so was unlikely to eat one.
But they mulch, and when the girls play in the garden, it gets on her fingers and hands and then on her face and before you know it it’s in her system.
She has reason for concern: Beau suffered anaphylactic shock in the garden of their home in 2019.
“She had swollen ears, swollen lips and was clutching her throat. Then she had hives on her body. The reaction isn’t just itchy skin, it is anaphylactic,” said Ms Beck.
Back in 2018, the family was given permission to trim the tree by 13 feet, but the consent has since expired.
She recently requested permission from the South Norfolk Council to trim the height and spread of the tree but was denied, citing extreme objections from 11 residents. One said: “As an artist, I draw and photograph it regularly, loving the age and dignity of its perfectly shaped crown.”
Seventeen residents sent the council letters supporting Ms Beck. One said: “Although it will be upsetting from a visual perspective for some local residents, when you consider the very dangerous health implications this could have on a small child, I can’t see how anyone can object to this.”
The village council says some pruning would be acceptable but a conservation officer asserted the extent of work proposed by Ms Beck would lead to “disease and decay”.
Lisa Neal, ward councilor for Trowse, said she had contacted Ms Beck to find a “compromise to help both sides”.
She added: “On one side you have Chantal’s daughter with the health implications, on the other people feel it is a lovely tree and don’t want to have too much cut off it because that could damage or kill the tree.”
We at SnackSafely.com urge the South Norfolk Council to come to a reasonable accommodation for the Beck family. This is not simply a matter of conservation or esthetics; Beau has a life-threatening disability that must be accounted for in the council’s decision.
What do you think? Be our guest and comment below.
South Norfolk Village Council: Please consider the insanity of dismissing the life-threatening situation at stake here. Are you willing to deal with the consequences should this young person lose their life (which IS a possibility) over a “lovely tree?” This denial should be an embarrassment. Selfish and short-sighted. Please reconsider.
I completely understand the mom’s concern and it is so sad that a tree has more value than a human life. In compromise, would a ‘safety-net’ of sorts be able to be installed? Save the tree, save the child. Engineer some sort of catch system that would keep the nuts from falling onto the child’s playground and perhaps let them slide to the tree owners property?? Just my thoughts….
This situation to request removal of a 100 year old tree seems to have snowballed. The consequences on both sides have merit.
Why would the residents of the village comply to removing a tree ? There has to be another solution. First, if the daughter is that susceptible to anaphylaxis, should she be in the vicinity of anything pertaining to walnut? Your not going to be able to stop walnuts from naturally dropping to the ground. Aside from aesthetic beauty , the tree had its residence established prior to the family being there. The town needs to consider all the facts and do some research on modifying the tree . Trimming a tree will not prevent it from producing nuts . The other question , besides omitting yard play, what prevention measures are the parents following to eliminate exposure to the allergen?
Interesting article, keep us posted.
Are there multiple walnut trees in this community? Is this tree unique and there aren’t any others like it in the community? I liked the net idea mentioned above. Walnuts also attract animals. I did not see animals mentioned in the article. Are the animals actively removing the walnuts from the area reducing the exposure? How much bounty does this tree produce and what animals does it attract? Are the walnuts produced constantly or is there an annual harvest during a particular season that makes the play area dangerous for a finite period? Is this particular community saturated with walnut trees so no matter where they live in this community, exposure is always a risk? If this area is infested with these trees, no matter where they live in the community, the child could be at risk. I presume the house came before the child. In the interest of the child’s health which is tantamount, I would consider moving to a safer area. Does this child have other allergies that would put her health in jeopardy living at this particular location? I would like to ask for some more information please. I think a compromise could be reached.
PARAMOUNT – not tantamount.
I can’t believe this is even in question. A tree over a human life? My daughter also has a life-threatening walnut allergy and had an itchy palm after picking up the fruit. She also has experienced anaphylaxis (from cashew) and so I understand the fear and concern. Personally, I would move away from this community. It is nice that some people support the family, but the ridiculous few “neighbors” that want to paint the old tree or admire its beauty and are prioritizing that over a young child’s life…get away from them. Sadly, it is probably what they want to happen. It would be interesting what they would say if their loved one’s life was threatened on a daily basis and how they would change their perspective. As a mom, protect your child in the next best way-away from the walnut tree.
Health and safety of a single tree vs. health and safety of a single child. I must not understand the question because the answer seems so obvious to me. How will the village feel about their efforts for this tree if the girl is, in fact, injured? They will suffer tremendously as they must for their selfishness and ignorance.
I say the tree goes. No question.
The people who are demanding that the tree remain are attempting great harm and possible death of the little girl. There is no compromise here. The tree should be removed.
I am a mom of child with severe tree nut allergies, I am also a nature lover. I think there are ways around it that can work for all. Teaching your child about trees and how to protect herself is a step to becoming an independent adult. My daughter loves nature too an knows that some trees produce nuts that aren’t safe for her to touch.
Try creating a nature area there for viewing only and a special safe area for her to play. We have done this and it has worked beautifully. A fairy fort/ swing set and gardens that she can play and learn in. This way she can love nature and enjoy it too😊
What a very selfish community! The life of a child verses a tree? I’m not sure I would even consider a move into this community that does not value its children. There is more than keeping her away from the tree, this is her own yard that the village is keeping her from enjoying as all children should be allowed to do.
It’s time South Norfolk council reached an agreement about the chestnut tree or do they think a tree however beautiful is more important than a child’s health?
You couldn’t make it up.
Shame on you all.
Teachable moments for ALL sides.
So many people don’t “believe” in life-threatening allergies. They think we exaggerate the dangers because we’re overprotective parents who coddle our kids to make them feel “special.” They’ve never rushed to the ER with a child gasping for breath. If they had, they couldn’t be so cold and callous—or maybe they could. It’s becoming ever more clear that many Americans are unwilling to be inconvenienced in the least to protect other people—even when “inconvenienced” means wearing a mask or “having a tree I like trimmed.” The neighbors who really care should just go and cut the damned thing down in the middle of the night.