Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Winter and Rough Weather

All the media hype about the snow during the past few days has made me think back to the days of my childhood and before when cold, snowy winters were the norm rather than the exception. The photo above was taken yesterday, a pretty sight and perfectly fine for walking in.

Now this is a rather different scene, a photograph taken in the Peak District in the winter of 1946/47, the very first winter of my life. Here German POWs are clearing snow from a railway cutting.

This photo and the next were taken in North Yorkshire also in 1947. Life was hard just after the war without any extra dificulties, both food and fuel were severely rationed,everyone had coal fires for heating and the power stations were also fuelled by coal but there simply wasn't enough coal being produced so the Government introduced power cuts - the electricity was off between 9am-12pm and 2pm-4pm every day and buying enough coal to light even the smallest of fires was like finding gold dust.

This man and his dog are dwarfed by the huge drifts at the side of the road but at least the snow plough seems to have got through by this stage. The snow began on January 21st in the south and southwest of England and it was the middle of March when the thaw began causing terrible flooding. In many parts of England it snowed virtually every day in February. This is an excerpt fom a book of mine called 'Letters From Compton Deverell' which was written during early February of 1947:

" The bitter spell has returned. Since I last wrote there has been a dramatic change, yesterday it snowed all day long and most of the night as well. Much of the north of England is cut off, Manchester and Buxton, Scarborough and Whitby are isolated, Lincolnshire is buried deep. The Great North Road is blocked near Grantham with vast drifts, trains are buried, farms are being provisioned by airplane, in short, it is the hardest winter in the memory of most people living today. "

So maybe things aren't so bad after all - the present day media have obviously never experienced a real snowfall or they wouldn't make so much fuss about what is, after all, just a few inches!

The Great North Road was the old Mail Coach route from London to York and Edinburgh which is now known, rather less romantically, as the A1. It runs up the eastern side of England through the flat Fen country and is a road I use regularly on my trips to Suffolk. It was once reknowned as a haunt of highwaymen including the infamous Dick Turpin. Nothing to do with snow but still an interesting bit of information :)

Edited to add that Roy, in his comment, has given a really interesting link to a Met Office article which I'm putting here as a live link since I can't edit the comment. Thanks Roy!


Amongst The Oaks said...

What a wonderful education I got today. And it makes me think we've all gone soft! And the media only makes it worse by going on about the "difficulties" everyone is experiencing. Thank you for reminding us that we really have it quite easy compared to the War years and (here in America) the Great Depression.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rowan, thanks for that it was really interesting. Kindred sprits really as I was born in March 1947. The midwife and Doctor had to walk to my village in Somerset. I have linked an article here from the met office website that makes interesting reading about that time in 1947.

Sheila said...

I remember snow during my childhood, and going ice skating on the pond at the golf course with my class. I also remember the awful smog/fog we used to get as a result of all those coal fires, when coal was more readily available. They really were pea soupers, thick and green..!
We didn't have fur lined boots then either, just wellies with two pairs of socks.
I'll go before I start telling about my 2 mile walks to school, uphill both ways...!

Pieceful Afternoon said...

Wow - amazing snow. Thanks for the education. I'm just glad our bit of snow (2 1/2 feet) is gone for the year and we are having a soft drizzle tonight.

MrsL said...

Great phots - I've seen teh cheery milkman one before. Being brought up in Scotland, we were sued to getting snowed in in winter; my mother had to cope with four of us! Sometimes it was days on end. I think it's different now, as so many rely on transport to get to schools and work. When we were wee, all the village schaool teachers (3) lived in teh village. When they shut that school, and we had to be bussed to the next one down to the new school, often the bus just couldn;t get around the wee steep lanes, and that was it!



Gracie said...

Finally a winter that is a real one! During winter time it always snowed, now it seems that's a strange thing to happen!
Thanks for sharing memories and pics.
Gracie at

laoi gaul~williams said...

thank you for this post rowan~my nan talks about that winter and my mum of the 63-4 winter. the worse snow i can remember goes back to the 80's!

hope you are staying warm and safe :)

Lynda (Granny K) said...

.....and no central heating! Who remembers treating their chilblanes with a block of something called 'Melrose'? It did nothing at all!

Janet said...

I'm cold just looking at these photos! I remember snows here in the US being much worse when I was younger, too. And we seldom got snow days at school. Now it seems that if a few snowflakes fall everything shuts down!

wil said...

Very interesting post (and blog)! I mistakenly assumed Britain never got much snow due to its maritime climate. Boy was I wrong!

Mary said...

Rowan, I was 4 that year and truly have some memories of the huge snow in Torquay - nothing has ever been like it again in the UK. We lived on an 'estate' of pre-fabs erected by the POW's as emergency housing after WW2 - they were actually cute little houses, now gone of course! The neighbors dug a trench across the road - I remember I could not see over the top. We couldn't get out to go anywhere - think everyone pitched in sharing food etc. It must have been so cold with just our little electric fires for heat!

Here in the US I experienced some severe Winters with a lot of snow when I lived up North - however they were prepared with equipment to clear the roads etc. Here in the South, news of an impending snowfall has everyone heading to the store for bread and milk for some reason - it's quite hilarious!

Stay warm and enjoy Nature's beauty - thanks for the interesting history - I will go read more about 1947.

~ Mary ~

Rosie said...

When I was a child in the 50s we expected for our small village in Derbyshire to be 'snowed in', I remember walking to junior school in the snow (it never closed). I also remember the winter of 62/63 - by then I had to catch the school bus to get to the Grammar School about 4 miles away. One day we came off the road and up a bank - we all had to jump out of the emergency door at the back into the deep snow. The head girl (who lived in our village) organised us and marched us in a line to school where we spent the whole day wet, miserable and wondering if we would get home:)

Thanks for all the info on 1947 - I've seen photos and heard my Dad's memories of leaving the house by the bedroom window because the snow had covered both doors of the house.

I think we have some how, over the years, lost the knowledge of how to cope with bad weather.

PAT said...

I can remember big snows in Missouri, when I was a child. One in particular stands out. It was around 1950. It snowed on Hallowe'en that year and as far as I can remember, snow was on the ground all winter. I remember it very well,even though I was only 7.
We don't have the really big snows here, now.

The photos are amazing! Thanks so much, Rowan.

Ragged Roses said...

A very interesting post Rowan. I remember winters being much tougher when I was younger, this is in fact the first winter in a long time that it has felt true to the season,
What made last week so special was the joy felt by all the children experiencing it for maybe the first time and the way I felt like a child again myself!

Sarah said...

Wonderful post, Rowan! My mother talks about riding her bike to the station for several miles to catch the train to school in Warwick (they lived just outside Stratford during the war)and how freezing cold she became every winter. My mother-in-law talks about the big snow of 1947 and the lack of coal when she was a student in London and how cold it was. I remember being snowed in at the farm in the Cotswolds twice during the 1960s. One time our neighbours came over on horseback to see if we needed anything and the next time we were dug out by a gang of men from the Council after being confined to the house for several days! I thank my lucky stars for central heating now as I used to get terrible chilblains every winter until I went away to university in the late 70s. Luckily our trains have run perfectly during this snow and I haven't missed any work.

nita x said...

rowan, some of those pictures remind me of when i was little in our village, lovely when snow was snow :o)
ive left an award for you on my blog :o) take care

ICQB said...

What an interesting post. And it's been fun to read through the comments too. I've lived in several different climates here in the U.S.

In the Washington D.C. area, more than a few inches of snow will start to slow things down. In southern New Mexico, snow is rare, except in the mountains. Deep in the heart of Texas we thought it was rare when we had to don heavy coats. In Minnesota, lots of snow in winter is the norm and people just go about normally even in heavy snowfalls.

And here in northeast Ohio, up near Lake Erie, we can get our fair share of the white stuff - but in the 7 years I've lived here each winter has been different. We've had two with heavy snowfalls all winter (one of them record-breaking).

Thanks for the pictures. Stay warm!

Julie said...

Thanks for the story and the photos. Yes, winters were way harder when I was a kind. That is, until this winter. It's like the old timey ones.