The snow arrived in Ashbourne on the night of Thursday 22nd March and on Saturday 31st of March it remains. Its been quite an experience. We used to holiday regularly in Scotland and on the walls of the ski lodge where we stayed were photographs from the early 1960s of Highland snow. Corridors were ploughed through to allow access but those black and white photographs seemed distant even then.
My own experience of snow (as a non-skier) has been fairly limited save one scary night on the North Yorkshire Moors when I drove home in a convoy from a remote pub through driving, drifting snow and only just got through.
But this week we have had the real deal – feet of the stuff.
When it first arrived – the first tentative covering – it seemed that the world had stopped. As a nation we are far more afraid of snow than we ought to be. The forecast of heavy snow was enough to close our schools while the rest of the community carried on. Even the BMW and Mercedes drivers ventured out unafraid. I happily drove up the North East and back blissfully unaware of what was to follow.
Friday night and Saturday brought the really heavy fall and the dreaded drifting began. We sensibly changed our plans for the evening to something more reasonable. We enjoyed the magnificent first CAMRA Ashbourne beer festival which took on a bit of a Blitz spirit. The groups there were regaling stories of near misses, were heavily wrapped up in woollens and waterproofs, and enjoying the sustenance – it was one of the few places to go. The restaurants and pubs were eerily quiet as people clearly decided to hunker down at home and see it out. The 4 Wheel Drive motorists were out in force as ever, waving cheerily to passers by as they get some payback on their investment. Meanwhile the ones who really need them, the farmers and those living in remote villages, can get traction but would need some James Bond attachment on the front of their vehicles to deal with the walls of snow blocking their way.
The photographs from the villages began to filter through on Twitter and Facebook. Those images from 1960s Scotland were on our doorstep. There are some great shots of huge drifts, unrecognisable roads with road signs just peeking above the sea of white and impassable doorways.
We took a walk with friends on Saturday afternoon and experienced the deep drifts. One minute we were walking on crunchy snow, the next we were up to our waist in fluffy stuff and lifting the dog out.
The low temperatures, the type of snow and the wind mean we kept the legacy going. It seems we have many green fields now because all the snow has blown out of them! On Monday I went to work early along the A52, ended up in a drift and had to dig my way out. Workers at Moy Park, inadequately dressed for the purpose, were walking along the road in a steady stream as their transport couldn’t make it through. I turned around to find the A515 in a similar condition but passable with care – 4 foot-high walls to drive through at various points. To add further disruption trees have fallen down due to the weight of snow on them.
Almost into April we still have snow and ice on the ground and the temperature can’t raise high enough to shift it. Little by little we are returning to normal. In the villages and farms the damage is only just being revealed. Our six-foot snowman, John Snow, is now eyeless and noseless but still standing proud.