A PENDLE businessman has told how he escaped death after coming within seconds of being crushed by a falling tree branch while visiting a Lake District beauty spot.

The drama unfolded at around noon last Sunday when 63-year-old Lewis Walch was travelling near Aira Force waterfall on the shores of Ullswater.

Mr Walch said he and a friend were just two seconds away from being crushed by the 40ft limb of a rotting oak tree.

“The gods must have been watching over us,” said Mr Walch, one of three directors at Colne-based Kedel Ltd. “It was a near death experience that I certainly don’t want to happen again.”

The pair were travelling in a silver Toyota Corolla on the A592, on the shores of Ullswater, when the branch fell just metres behind them.

Mr Walch said he had just missed the Park Brow turn off to head towards the National Trust car park at Aira Force when the tree fell. It was just as my friend said I had missed the turn off that I heard a huge crack,” he said.

“I had no idea what it was. It wasn’t until I pulled into a lay-by to turn around to go back to the turn off that I realised what had happened. We were incredibly lucky and I am definitely counting my lucky stars.”

He added the weather was calm and sunny and that there was no hint of a wind.

Mr Walch, from Farnworth, Bolton, which creates products from recy- cled plastic wood, said there was a motorcyclist and another car travelling behind him.

“The motorcyclist was shaken and talking very fast,” he said. “The only reason I think the tree missed the car was because it had slowed down to turn.”

The tree was removed by one of Cumbria County Council's highways teams later in the afternoon.

A spokesman said it believed the branch fell from a tree in private land adjacent to the highway.

“The council is carrying out a safety inspection of trees in this area to assess if any further action is needed,” he said.