By Harriet Kent.
Picture the scene. It’s mid-December and the nights are getting colder. Frost is predicted in the coming days. Daylight is limited to shades of grey with tinges of yellow, and the clouds are thick and oppressive.
Every day, the dusk gets earlier. Car headlights are on and dipped at 3pm, creating eerie shadows through the skeletal tree-lined lanes. There is a chance of snow.
It is often said that ‘it doesn’t snow on the Island’, but there are many Islanders who know, that in times gone by, that wasn’t always the case.
I am too young to remember the infamous winter of 1963, but my parents often talked of the time when they moved farms amidst that harsh and bitter cold spell. They had to transport many cattle and, upon arriving at the new farm, were met with frozen pipes and no water for the thirsty cows. It was dark, the snow had fallen quickly and thickly, and the farmhouse was stone cold. But there was a saviour waiting in the wings: a new neighbour who gallantly helped to transport water to the farm in milk churns on the back of his tractor. The drinking troughs were blocks of solid ice at least a foot thick and had to be hit with a pickaxe. It couldn’t have been a worse time to have moved. However, my parents had made a very good friend.
A complete white-out
One winter when it did snow particularly hard was in February 1978. I had attended a school visit to London and was making my way back home when the snow began falling.
The wind had picked up and the snow started drifting. My poor parents made the journey to the pick-up point, which happened to be my school. I will never forget the trip back home along the Middle Road, watching the snow swirling around the car like a space forcefield.
We limped slowly home through the rapidly forming drifts, with windscreen wipers at full pelt.
The following morning, we woke up to a scene of complete white-out. The snow had drifted above the hedge line. In places it was so deep that when stepped on, you disappeared into the abyss! It was a good reason to miss school, as for the next week, we were snowed in.
The most amazing part of that experience came at nightfall, when not only did the frost descend and create a sparkling scene throughout the fields and lanes, but the sense of silence and stillness was palpable. With no vehicles and no brave souls venturing out into the cold, life fell into an incredible kind of hush.