A Church Crookham woman who says her life was saved by her dogs, after she was crushed by a two-ton falling tree, is suing Hart District Council for more than £200,000.

Maria Morgan-Frodsham, an acupuncturist, was walking her two Staffies - Lulu, and Dizzi - around Fleet Pond in August 2014, when the tail-end of Hurricane Bertha hit the UK.

High winds brought down a 60-foot Scots Pine, which hit her in the back of the neck and pinned her to the ground. She was trapped, hidden from sight, until Lulu and Dizzi alerted passing joggers to her plight.

She suffered a broken neck, a back fractured in five places and a leg fractured in three, as well as three broken ribs.

Ms Morgan-Frodsham, 63, has now launched a High Court claim for more than £200,000 compensation against Hart District Council.

She claims that the tree which injured her was riddled with fungus and "significantly imbalanced" and ought to have been chopped down, as it had been unsafe for years.

In a writ lodged at London's High Court, barrister Rhiannon Jones QC states that Ms Morgan-Frodsham was with her dogs on "the designated public boardwalk" though Brookly Wood, near Fleet Pond, when the accident occurred.

A tranquil scene at Fleet Pond
A tranquil scene at Fleet Pond

As she walked her pets she "noted a sudden change in the weather, when the sky turned black, it started to rain heavily and the wind increased," the writ goes on.

'Struck in the back of the neck'

"She shouted to her dogs to run to the car...as she ran along the path to the car she was struck in the back of the neck by a tree which threw her to the ground, pinning her down...the tree brought a second tree down with it as it fell which also trapped her.

"She suffered serious injuries as result of being struck by the tree, and was trapped. It took several hours before she could be released from under the trees".

'Infestation of fungus'

The writ claims: "The tree fell because it was suffering from an infestation of fungus which had caused severe decay...it was unable to withstand the windy weather.

"The tree had severe internal decay in the lower stem, the wood was crumbling and soft, increasingly so towards the centre of the trunk, where it was hollow in places...there were obvious external indications of the extent of the decay."

The writ alleges that that the tree was not adequately inspected, that the council "failed to appreciate the significance of and risk posed by the defects apparent on a visual inspection of the tree", "failed to adequately risk assess the tree" and missed an "obviously hazardous defect".

'Left with lasting pain'

Ms Morgan-Frodsham is currently "not fit to work as an acupuncturist or herbalist," is "handicapped in the labour market" and has been left with lasting pain and hampered by her injuries in her day to day life, the writ states.

The claims made in the writ have yet to be tested in evidence before a judge.

Patricia Hughes, joint chief executive of Hart District Council, said: "Hart District Council cannot comment on specific details at this time regarding a pending legal case.

"What we can confirm is that in August 2014 a lady was hurt, as the result of a tree falling on her in extreme weather conditions, at a site owned and managed by the council.

"We would like to reassure the public that the council has in place policies and procedures to ensure the safety of visitors at our sites.”