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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February 2004, 16:12 GMT
BBC stumps up for tree stunt
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson drove the 4 x 4 into the tree in the church car park
The BBC has apologised for damage to a tree caused in a motoring test by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

The presenter drove a pick-up truck into a horse chestnut tree in a car park in Churchill, Somerset to test the strength of the Toyota.

Local people had thought the damage to the trunk last year had been caused accidentally or by vandals - until the stunt was shown on television in a recent edition of Top Gear.

The BBC has apologised to the parish council and agreed to pay compensation of 250 towards a local project.

The 30-year-old tree, which stands in the car park of St John the Baptist Church, lost a section of its bark in the test.

Churchill Parish Council deputy chairman and church warden Pam Millward said: "I had noticed it was damaged and thought it must have been an accident.

'Badly scarred'

"Then a student in the village saw Top Gear and suddenly recognised the tree as the one in the church car park.

"We looked at the tree and saw red paint and glass so I contacted the BBC.

"After a few days the director of Top Gear admitted guilt and sent us 250 to be used as we see fit.

"I was amazed and annoyed at the cheek that they can turn up and damage the tree like that.

"They claimed they couldn't ask permission as there was nobody to ask but there's a notice board with numbers very nearby."

Mrs Millward said the tree was "badly scarred" by the incident and an expert had told her it could suffer from woodworm and rot.

A BBC spokesman said: "Top Gear have unreservedly apologised to the parish council for driving the pick-up into the tree.

"In acknowledgement of this, we have sent the parish council compensation in the form of a donation for them to use as they feel is appropriate."

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