Volunteers respond to Nenthead snowplough driver appeal

Image source, Nenthead Community Snowplough Team
Image caption,
The Nenthead snowplough is named Bertha

People in one of England's most remote villages may avoid being stranded this winter after volunteers responded to an urgent appeal for community snowplough drivers.

Nenthead in Cumbria is about 1,500ft (457m) above sea level and is hit by blizzards each year.

At least seven drivers are required to commit to being available to take the vehicle's wheel one day per week.

Tony Pennell, a retired design and development engineer who built the plough 10 years ago by converting an Army truck, said a shortage of drivers had left the venture in a "critical" position.

Several people have now come forward, the 80-year-old explained.

"Ten days ago, for various reasons, we only had three people who were prepared to drive and we were in a position where we thought we wouldn't be able to operate this year.

"Now we possibly have eight, although people often like to travel in pairs in case there are any problems so we could still do with a few more."

Image source, Deb Huby
Image caption,
Snowdrifts in 2018 caused particular problems for villagers

Volunteers must be qualified to drive 7.5-tonne vehicles and training will be provided by Cumbria County Council.

Mr Pennell said the plough is "vital" for anyone not living alongside the village's main roads because they are "not treated as a priority" by the local authority's gritting team.

"If we get ice on the hills it can be lethal," he warned.

A mechanic is also required to maintain the plough as Mr Pennell says "crawling around under a truck is not easy anymore" given his age.

Staff from South Tynedale Railway Limited at nearby Alston helped last year, but the organisation has since gone into receivership.

Anyone interested in helping should contact the Nenthead Snowplough group on Facebook.

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