A Braunton restaurant has been temporarily closed after a tree crashed into it yesterday afternoon (Wednesday.) The owners of Slim Jim s in Caen Street were shocked when with no warning a large tree on the bank of the River Caen beside their premises topp

A Braunton restaurant has been temporarily closed after a tree crashed into it yesterday afternoon (Wednesday.)

The owners of Slim Jim's in Caen Street were shocked when with no warning a large tree on the bank of the River Caen beside their premises toppled into the building at 5.30pm.

Both Chris Horrell and partner Virginia Mason were inside working at the time and dashed outside to discover the tree had come to rest precariously after smashing windows, the restaurant sign, railings and balustrades, as well as embedding itself in the wall.

Police and the fire service were soon on the scene and cordoned it off, ensuring the tree was made safe until it could be dealt with.

The restaurant was closed last night and all day today but Chris and Virginia hope they may be able to re-open tomorrow (Friday) evening.

It isn't yet clear why the tree fell. It was mostly dead and a combination of wind and water erosion could have been enough. However, an initial blinding flash seen at the time was thought to be damaged power cables but Chris has since wondered whether it was struck by lightening.

Because the tree is straddling the river and could pose a flood risk it will be carefully cut up tomorrow and removed by Environment Agency workers.

Chris is unable to assess the extent or cost of the damage until the tree is removed as it currently covers half of the building on that side.

But the owners of Slim Jim's are very thankful there were no injuries or worse damage.

"If it had fallen a bit more in the other direction it could have staved in the whole wall," said Chris.

"If someone had been outside at the time reading the menu it would have killed them.

"We're not out of the woods yet because they are worried it could roll as it's only being held up the telegraph pole and my sign.

"We can't event estimate the cost yet until we can see what it's done. I have had to cancel tonight's bookings and we have bookings tomorrow night too, but we're hoping to open on Friday evening if we can."

The Environment Agency workers will find tomorrow that there are some benefits to working outside a restaurant - Chris is planning to ensure they don't go hungry whilst on site!

Read more about this in the Gazette next week.