Winter brings out the snowploughs
West's Wintry Weather
Whatever the conditions, Points West has always been ready to capture the region’s more extreme spells of weather. Remember the winter of 1981/2 or the snows of the 1960s? Perhaps this selection of films will bring back some chilling memories…
Once the weather experts start predicting any kind of extreme weather, the journalists start packing their thermals or sun block accordingly – after all, weather is big news.
Over the years, the West Country has received its fair share of extremes, including record low temperatures, wind speeds, days of sunshine, degrees of frost and centimetres of snow.
And it’s probably the snowfall that people remember best – tinged either with fondness or regret.
Damage to cars in Somerset
Memories of days off school, tobogganing with best mates, or just the sheer wonder of seeing the landscape blanketed by virgin white, crisp and even snow, for some snow is probably the most exciting extreme weather condition.
For others though it means days off work, being cut off from supplies of electricity (or even food), and even the worry of what might happen when the snow begins to thaw and flooding becomes a serious risk.
The snowfall, blizzard conditions and low temperatures experienced in 1981/2 proved to be a difficult time for many parts of the West Country, although snow wasn’t the only problem.
A surge in the high tide, coupled with wind direction, meant the coastline was seriously affected, with the resulting damage costing £6m to put right.
The main films we’ve selected for this section of Points West Archive On Demand come from a programme that was transmitted in February 1982.
“Ten Million Pounds – After the Blizzards” was a round up of what had happened to the West when it bore the brunt of the worst weather conditions in living memory.
The programme, narrated by Andrew Harvey, includes dramatic footage from Somerset, Gloucestershire and around Bristol and reflects just how difficult the period from December to January really was.
The film journeys from the snowfields and blizzards of rural Gloucestershire, particularly around Amberley, to the icy conditions experienced in Bristol with frozen busses and stranded lorry drivers, who were catered for at Warmley Community Centre.
The clips also include coverage of the damage caused along the Somerset coastline by the combination of high tide and the atrocious storm conditions. Uphill, Burnham and Weston took a severe pounding from the rising sea.
Lions in snow at Longleat
Sadly, the film shows little of what people in Wiltshire had to suffer – just as with neighbouring counties, people t/here had to cope with extreme conditions, cars were abandoned, communities cut off and there was extensive disruption to work life and transportation.
The hospital radio in Devizes however did make it to the media after they offered to become an outpost studio for BBC Radio Bristol who broadcast the station’s regular reports on the conditions, including where the power supplies were disrupted, which buses were running or which events had been cancelled.
This was long before BBC Wiltshire Sound (now Radio Wiltshire) and the experience highlighted the West Country’s ability to rally round in times of crisis.
The fourth film included features Points West footage showing the wintry conditions of the 1960s – with film of Bath and the surrounding countryside, as well as some unusual images of the famous Lions of Longleat faced with a rather snowing enclosure!
MORE FILMS FROM POINTS WEST
last updated: 05/12/2008 at 14:14
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