Snowy Wales

What an unusual and interesting few days we have had.

Sharon and I had originally been invited to Steven and Rosie’s for Christmas: just the four of us with a turkey and lots of trimmings. However, this arrangement had to be altered early in December so we decided to come down and spend time with them a week earlier as Sharon would finish work at lunchtime on Wednesday, in plenty of time for us to set off.

Readers of my Saturday Walks blog will know that we stopped off at Karen and Dave’s en route and that we eventually arrived here at Ty Llwyd on Thursday 16th December. Our plan was to return home Sunday 19th or Monday 20th at the latest. This became impossible because of the weather.

Our problem wasn’t the snow that fell heavily on Wales over Thursday night and Friday, but the lane outside the house, which was like an ice-rink. Everyone around Ty Llwyd has 4WD cars and trucks and as a result we were able to get out on Saturday with Steven in his Subaru, but our Ford Focus didn’t have a chance on that surface.

Since Saturday, the road had worsened as tractors, Utes and trailers have driven up and down the lane, moving sheep and feed up around. As it is 1.5 miles to a main road, in either direction and as the top road wasn’t all that clear itself on Saturday, it was with some trepidation that we set off home on Tuesday morning. As suspected, the Focus went about 10 yards and ground to a halt so we had to continue with Stephen towing us up the hill with Rosie’s 4WD Frontera. Half way was as much as it managed before falling foul of the ice. Luckily, a farmer had seen our plight and offered to tow us with his tractor, which was a hairy but successful trip.

So eventually, we got off and on our way home. As we left Aberystwyth and begun to climb into the mountains a light snow started, which made the final drop down towards Newtown fairly hairy too. Nevertheless, from the Red Kite Café, through Llangurig and up as far as Welshpool we saw some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen. At first the mountains were just brilliantly white, but as the tree line became visible, especially on the lower roads, a combination of hoar frost and snow had made the view even more spectacular. Thank you Wales.

Once home, we found pipes blocked and a topsy turvy central heating system. But we’re on with all that! Isn’t it surprising what a few days of sub-zero temperatures can change?

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True Grit

Well, the snow finally looks like it might be leaving us. Maybe only for a while, but it will be nice to see what’s underneath again.

I’m not sure exactly when it started to snow, but I had to postpone my visit to Sheffield on 18th December because the slight snow fall had turned to ice and I couldn’t get out of the village. I could, just, but it took and age and the journey wasn’t worth the risk.

The snow was deep and crisp and even throughout Christmas and then it came again. We had about nine inches each time (not exaggerated – I measured it with my trusty – now rusty – blue metal ruler) and then this week we had a final daylong fall of very fine stuff that caused the most problems. Our road by this time was not gritted. This caused me to postpone this week’s trip to Newcastle, partly because the trains to that city were intermittent at best – cancelled at worst.

However, this isn’t a whinging note: I think that Kirklees Council have done a sterling job with the gritting – given that we’ve had a month of what appears to have been the worst winter snow in thirty years. I heard somewhere (maybe I read it) that Kirklees had bought in extra stocks of salt/grit this year and it showed, as the roads were kept pretty clear for the best part of this extended period of bad weather. Of course the side roads were not kept too clear – but then they never were!

Thirty years ago I lived in Golcar, just across the valley from where I live now and for two years running we had to dig ourselves out of the estate. Great fun it was as well; two or three hours digging to make sure we could get out the following day and then off we all went to the pub. None of us seemed to consider NOT going to work during that period. And my own children had a great time playing in the snow with their mates too (so did I).

I have two distinct memories of snow when from I was (much) younger. As a child in the fifties (time passes so slowly when you are very young), the snow seemed interminable, very deep and so much fun. I vaguely remember the milkman’s float having chains on the wheels and those neighbours lucky enough to have cars, changing their types in winter to ones that gripped – these might have been chains too, I can’t recall, but people certainly seemed to get about. Then in the sixties, as a young teenager, it became even more fun with sledging and snowballing and making huge snowmen. We used to make super glass-like icy slides down the footpaths too – brilliant but very deadly. The householders used to throw ash from their coal fires over these to prevent anyone from killing themselves (we hated them for that).

Ash was the grit of the day then: a virtuous circle of fire >> warmth >> useful waste. No big holes in Cheshire.

Well done so far Kirklees Highways Dept. Not so well done Kirklees schools – you have VLEs!

And not so well done Kirklees whatever the bin-men department is called. December 9th was my last gray bin collection. Tut tut.