A GRANDMOTHER who has been forced to fell two giant trees that overlooked her family home for four generations has marked their passing with a wake.
Since childhood, 73-year-old Valerie Harris and her neighbours in Algers Road, Loughton, have lived in the shadow of the 80ft French oak and pine tree that tower over her garden.
But, after the roots of the two trees were blamed for subsidence in a neighbouring house, Miss Harris' insurance company told her they were for the chop.
"I have lived here all my life, more or less," said Miss Harris, 73, whose parents Thomas and Amy moved into the house in the 1950s.
"It seems so sad that these two trees have got to come down. I don't think the house will be the same."
Miss Harris' parents lived with her in the house until their deaths and her son Kingsley, now 41, and two grandchildren grew up playing on the swing that hung from the oak and in the 1930s caravan that sits at its base.
She said the trees had provided a focal point for family gatherings and a much-loved landmark for neighbours for as long as she could remember.
Her family kept their roots firmly in the street - her grandfather, uncle and sister all settled in Algers Road, within sight of the trees.
"The pine I should think has been here before the house was built," said Miss Harris.
"My father was always a garden lover. It was a beautiful garden when dad was here.
"We have always had animals and they are all buried under the tree.
"My sister had a nanny goat and it died one Christmas and we were all out digging round the tree."
Miss Harris accepted the trees' inevitable demise - but decided to hold a 'wake' with family and neighbours on Wednesday (October 3) to share memories and stories.
Her son Kingsley Martin, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Buckhurst Hill, helped organise the send-off, cooking sausages and mash for more than 20 mourners.
He said: "I took my boy round - he's four and the first thing he did was run round the back and say 'where's my swing?'
"It broke my heart to see them in pieces. It's a real, real crying shame."
Mr Martin's punters may soon find themselves eating off the trees - the wood will be used for a garden bench, distributed to friends as firewood and made into a series of sturdy buffet trays for the pub.