December 1981 had been exceptionally cold and snowy, one of the worst Decembers I can recall. I remember it so clearly because at that time we were living in conditions not much better than a building site, as our decrepit old farmhouse was gradually renovated around us. The roof was in the process of being replaced, as were the windows, and I will never forget the fortitude of the double-glazing fitters, as they struggled to install our new aluminium-framed windows in the middle of a record-breaking cold spell.
Towards the end of the month, with snow still lying thickly on the ground, we went away to spend the Christmas holidays with DH’s recently-widowed mother, and arrived home in
That was on Tuesday, market day in the little town where I worked, and two days later, on the night of January 7th 1982, the snow began to fall. It fell all night, and by the time we woke up on Friday morning it was obvious we weren’t going to be going anywhere anytime soon. All day we stayed indoors, watching as the snow continued to fall without stopping, and it was still falling when we went to bed that night. It wasn’t until well into Saturday morning that it finally stopped and by that time we had around two feet of level snow everywhere and drifts that filled our lane from hedge-top to hedge-top.
|A neighbouring village street|
For days our village was cut off from the outside world, and even when the first snow-ploughs had cut through the worst of the drifts, only four-wheel drive vehicles could cope. We live on the 1000’ contour line, nearly two miles up a steep hill from the centre of the village , and it was at least a week after the snow stopped falling before the first snow-plough went along the single-track county road at the end of our lane.
|Drifts above my head|
It was at this point that DS, then newly a teenager, and with a teenager’s urgent need for extra pocket money, volunteered to dig out the lane if we would give him what we would have paid the contractor. Naturally expecting that his enthusiasm would soon wane and our money would be safe, DH and I readily agreed and found him a snow shovel.
|Don't scratch my car!|
Next morning all four of us set to work, two at each end of the lane and dug towards each other for the best part of the next two days, until finally, like explorers meeting in the wilderness, we broke through the last few feet and finally had a gap wide enough for our small cars to pass.
The following day we made our first foray into the outside world since the snow had started to fall eleven days before and thankfully replenished our depleted stocks of food – and yes, DS did get the money we had promised him. J
|It wasn't all work|
Note about images These were not all taken at the time of the great blizzard, but in winters around that period. They give a good impression of the kind of drifts we often had to deal with back then.