It was a good-natured walk. Myself, Dan and George spent extra time on where exactly we put our feet, 1) because you didn’t know how far down we might go, and 2) stepping in another’s print meant you could limit the surprises! George was largely the exception as he’d stepped it out and spearheaded the vanguard of the expedition. I was at the back – more guard’s van than vanguard.
About halfway through our walk was a single wall standing about 15 foot high with an arch window, keeping no-one warm, giving no-one a view, a bit like a Victorian folly but provided a bit of a break from the major whiteness around us.
Occasionally we remind ourselves to look up so as not to miss the beauty of the day. But we’re soon brought down to earth as soon as a puddle comes underfoot. Icy water making its way through your boots and then through, in my case, 3 layers of socks, can distract anyone’s firmest intentions to admire a landscape!
The snow didn’t start until our way back. We had made it halfway round the ridge; the farm and pub lay in the distance across the valley. Dan broke out his flask of hot water and we administered doses of coffee granules. This was very welcome, as was my own particular winter walk warmer: a bar of chocolate! As the snow fell lightly, we’d had ourselves an hour’s walk and were up for walking back. As it turned out, this was a timely decision…
On the way back, our pace was, unsurprisingly, somewhat faster. The snow closed in more. We’d got the hang of the puddles and were now good at following each other’s steps.
The wind picked up and became unpleasant. Before too long we had made it back to the lone wall, but no stops this time; we trudged on. The snow had covered our previous tracks we noticed and had built up here and there. Maybe a half hour left now. Just as well. The snow was drifting and the wind bore in attacking us, luckily, from behind. Had that level of tiny icicle bearing wind been coming straight at us it would have been deeply unpleasant.
Not much further on, we could see the farmhouse up the hill. The wind and snow obscured it often. This was good as we knew we just had the slope to go. The wind was strong now at our backs and we had a breather.
I felt I’d had enough by this stage so attacked the hill. Even though occasionally you’d disappear your leg 2 foot into the snow, mostly, though, it was about 6 inches. You couldn’t tell of course till your weight was already in it. I kept to the wire fence and strode up as best I could, stopping occasionally mindful that I didn’t have huge amounts of energy left.
The top of the slope came closer, suddenly there was a path and a proper wall and then a car passed. We were back to the road. Visibility was now maybe 15 feet but we knew the pub was down to the right. We crossed the road carefully. As a driver I could see that conditions had indeed worsened, never mind the wind driving snow around us.
The Lion’s lobby was very welcome. Boots and wet things came off. We camped around the fire to the right of the doorway. Made it! Beers all round. Boots on hearth, socks on fireguards. Now this wasn’t long after 2pm.
George was keen to get off smartish but we all realised it would have been treacherous driving in this drifting snow, never mind the roads earlier which had been bad enough.
Dan reckoned quarter to 4 we could leave by. Could we heck! A steady stream of people came through the door. People with kids, occasional babies (carried!), people with dogs. The police turned up – in full yellows, complete with yellow woolly hats with POLICE embroidered! There were tales of people who had ditched their cars, others who had made it to the pub, just, but didn’t dare go further. Before very long the pub was serving up free coffee and dishing out free soup (Very nice, worth a try!).
It wasn’t quite the blitz spirit. The mobile phones came out and we started to play our games! Being community-spirited I had asked for a pack of cards with an unspoken threat of teaching my comrades 25’s – an Irish card game way back in my family history. But no doing. No cards. No Scrabble. There was a pack of dominos – but it was only a bit of snow, it’s not as if there was nothing else to live for!
3pm came, 4pm, 5pm. People came, few left. There were some who went out to rescue one of the publicans cars – which had ditched. Not sure if they were successful. It remained very blowy: you’d open the door and you knew instantly you were going nowhere!
Stories began to circulate of snow ploughs trying to get to us from Castleton and from Hutton-le-Hole…
I cheered when I got past 200 on Snakes (yes, I’m a newbie!). A mum with a 9-month old in a carry-cot joined us, the rest of her group on the next table. The boy’s name was Henry. The landlady offered mum and baby a room for the night. The only one, the others were spoken for.
Towards 7pm a snow plough arrived. There was a general decision to follow the snow plough – it was going in our direction. Our remaining problem was Priscilla. Getting her out of the snow was a challenge, she was very comfortable. No heating. Sigh. No scraper. Sigh. I set to with beer mats on the windscreen. Thanks George! She fired up but wasn’t going anywhere. The convoy was setting off. Come on Priscilla! Forward, back, forward, back, trying to get enough purchase to push out onto the road – my one bit of foresight to park facing it.
The landlord brought out a shovel and set to clearing the wheels. Priscilla responded to therapy and gained the road. We were ready. We loaded up. And went nowhere fast. The wind would whip up and you could see nothing. Furious rubbing of the windscreen helped prevent clouding on the inside, the windscreen wipers on steady often made no difference.
There was no convoy in sight. I glimpsed a red light and headed towards it. All at once I saw the road – and the light on a pole about 15 foot up. I stuck to the road and soon passed the back of a car, half off the road, flashers on. One of a few cars we passed ditched.
After a number of whiteouts, wondering were we on the road, frequent expectations of ploughing into a drift, we spotted the lights. You had to remember where the road was and point the car slowly at it. Mostly you could see sod all.
Eventually the wind dropped. We had a convoy of a good dozen cars, yellow lights of the snow plough ahead against the night sky (it was dark by 4.30). And stopped! We remained stopped for a good 20 minutes. Once the car just wheelspun. The guys jumped out to push and then back in again. A guy knocked on my window. “Where did you go?! I’m not pushing it on my own!” Guys jumped out again. Chastened. And then chasing the car again when it takes off. When we passed the hold up there was a big circle of snow. I expect the little convoy coming the other way had had to turn around for us. Or needed digging out.
Another 10 or 15 minutes and the roads were good enough. The convoy went its separate ways and we had a fair – if long – drive back to Hull. Living to tell the tale!
Here’s to next time.