Exactly 60 years ago through from December 1962, into January, February and early March 1963 Britain was in the grip of a record-breaking winter now known as The Big Freeze. It had started in the middle of December and by the end of December was firmly established.
On 29 and 30 December 1962 a blizzard swept across South West England and Wales. Snow drifted to more than 20 feet (6.1 m) deep in places, driven by gale force easterly winds, blocking roads and railways. The snow stranded villagers and brought down power lines. The near-freezing temperatures meant that the snow cover lasted for more than two months in some areas. By the end of the month, there were snow drifts 8 feet (2.4 m) deep in Kent and 15 feet (4.6 m) deep in the west.
The village we lived in is tiny, remote and the roads are single track with high banks and hedges on either side. Whereas the snow ploughs could do some clearing on main roads between small town and villages in the area, nothing could get up the little roads in the villages themselves.
I recently found and old diary of mine from 1963. I’ve always loved writing so the new diary I had been bought for Christmas was used to record the details of my day to day life. Most of it is pretty boring stuff, especially the descriptions of what I had eaten. However, the first six weeks are fascinating as it’s a first hand account of life through the Big Freeze. I remember it really well but what I hadn’t realised until finding the diary was that I didn’t do a full week at school for six weeks! At times, when there had been no new snowfalls, the roads were clear and we could get about again. Then it would snow again.
I was twelve years old and had started in the ‘big school’ the previous September. My new school was five miles from our village and a local coach company used to bus the country kids into the town. What with snowdrifts blocking roads overnight and frozen and burst pipes in school, I was at home more than I was in school until the middle of February. On days when I couldn’t get to my school I had to go back to my old village school with my brother and sister. I wasn’t happy about that!
For nearly three months daily temperatures were around five degrees lower than the seasonal average. Pipes froze. Even the coal in the ground froze. And that meant heating homes became almost impossible. It was the middle of March before the snow on the ground eventually thawed, even though life had been more or less back to normal for a few weeks.
Thousands of animals perished in the cold temperatures Credit: ITV News Wales
A motorist negotiates a tricky icy bend on the road between Denbigh and Pentrefoelas, North Wales. Credit: North Wales Live.
As we know, all children love snow. They also enjoy the unexpected day off school. But by the end of January I was writing in my diary ‘I hope we don’t get any more snow, I’m sick of it.’
A diary entry which made me smile was the one where I wrote that my dad had made us snow shoes out of wire netting! That was typical of my dad. If something was needed he would have a go at making it. Our sledge was made by him and it was beautiful. He loved working with wood and took a pride in a good finish. We three children made really good use of the sledge during the Big Freeze!
The sledge was the same design as this one and my dad attached thin metal to the bottom of the runners for protection and speed.
Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.
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