Driving in snow

May 21, 2008
It never ceases to amaze me how just 10 cm of snow brings the uk to it's knees.

This week I have faced working 6am to 2pm and doing a 30 mile each way commute from Leominster to Worcester. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were fine, but then came the snow of Thursday and Friday.


I got up an hour early at 3-30am to check the conditions and sure enough we had about 6cm on the drive. so I got on my way by 4-30am to go the 30 miles to Worcester over one of the heighest points in Herefordshire (Bredenbury) on the A44. being the third car on the busy A44 didn't bother me and by driving at a sesible pace (30-40Mph) I got to work only 3 mins later than normal.

When at work everyone said "I didn't expect to see you". Later that morning at 10-30, five of my collegues decided they needed to go home back to Bromyard which is halfway along my route, because of the now 10cm of snow. i said I'd stay as the factory was nice and warm and by 2pm (normal leaving time)the council would of had chance to do their gritting.

I left at my usual time (2pm) and got home in under an hour for a change (normally takes an hour and a quater), because the roads were clear of traffic and the gritters had been out.


The morning was quite normal and with just a frost to contend with on the preious day's snow meant a 45 min drive to work with no drama's along the way. Then came the snow just in time for the start of the Friday get away from work. From about noon onwards everyone leaves work and head's off to a weekend rest.

When my turn came at 2pm, thats when the fun started!!

The roads were full of packed snow because people had crawled over the snow at less than 20Mph which just turns car tyres into steam rollers. If you do 30-40 Mph then the snow breaks up in the tyre treads and readuces the ice situation. Then of coarse came the plonkers who think it's fun to wheel spin all over the place totally out of control.

After taking an hour to do 9 miles I got to the foot of the Bromyard downs, well a couple of miles before actually as I jointed the que of traffic because lorries had got stuck on the two significant hills before Bromyard. After an hour of chugging a couple of yards at a time I got to the first offending hill to find a que of a dozen lorries and about 30 abandoned cars. A lorry driver explained that a lorry had jackknifed on the hill and they were waiting fro help.

Help came in the form of a huge tractor curtousey of a local frmer, but trying to get him past the traffic was a nightmare. You see, us car drivers had to park up between the lorries to let some down hill traffic pss to allow the tractor to go up to the rescue. A rather big bloke tapped on my window and asked if I could park my little Renault 5 between the two lorries 15 yards back. I said "no worries mate" and the poor bloke was gob smacked!! He then proceeded to tell me that at least two motorist's had threatened to "dot him" and many more had argued blind about a very sensible request and he did use "please and thankyou".

I did say to him that, he should of booted their doors in. After all he was one of the drivers from the stuck empty lorries who were trying to get us car drivers home, when they faced a night in the cab waiting for the ice to thaw.

After another 45 mins we got up the first hill and then again due to the assistance of the farmer and several lorry drivers we made it up the second hill. This time they had to persuade the traffic coming the opposite way to stop and wait to let the backlog of our up hill traffic to drive up the hill past abandoned cars and trucks, which we did under our own steam.

Once out of Bromyard the only obstical between me and Leominster is Straw bank, a 1 in 8 down hill then the same up. Sure enough yet more traffic stuck, but we only lost about 20 mins there.

From the top of Bredenbury on it is gentle down hill driving for 8 miles to Leominster wnich went without drama.

The whole journey took over four hours and was quite horendos. Not so much from the driving point of view as my trusty little Renault was a better performer than most 4X4's which were actually wheel spinning at times. Though I guess that was more to do with " the nut behind the wheel" than the vehicle capability. But the biggest concern to me was the lack of consideration and patience displayed by those who were needing the help of the volenteer army of stuck truckers who just because they were stranded did not see that they should allow us to be stranded too.

My next concern was just how ill prepared motorist's were. My tiny Renault 5 has got a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, two torches, a thick blanket, an old fleece, a rain proof yellow jacket, gloves and a thermal hat, and a tow rope all stashed inside the car ready for emergencies. All I added Wednesday night was a shovel for good measure. But I saw folk obviously fresh out of town sat in cars with no extra clothing and they even got out several times to clear the windows without any coats on.

I'd wager that only a hand full of the couple of hundred vehicles had got only half my survival kit onboard. Then better than 75% have never driven on snow.

Planning, patience, preperation is all that's needed and also having a kind word for the guy's trying their best to help is all thats needed from us to make hazardous situations pass by without accidents or assaults!!

May 12, 2005
on the news the advice was don`t travel in your car unless absolutely necessary.

people down your way asked for all they got.
Mar 14, 2005
Hello Steve,

I have to concur with what you write. I do not believe that the majority of UK drivers are prepared or understand the basics of winter driving.

It is their fault if they are not prepared (i.e. carrying the all the kit), but we just don't get enough snow and ice in which to gain experience.

I have spent time in British Columbia during the winter months, where you can end up with sub zero temperatures for three months solid, and despite 1meter snow falls over night, people just get on with life.

There's no great fuss about it, People just take the right precautions. The highways authorities don't tend to use salt or grit except on the most major routes, and folks know this, so they drive accordingly.

Our UK winters even in my life time used to be colder than they are now (Global warming?) and I remember occasions when we had weeks of snow, so we became a little more familiar with the skills needed, but we just don't tend to get this type of weather any more In the majority of the UK.

Incidentally was it your R5 towing the twin axle up Straw Bank hill past those cyclist in the video that's been found?
May 21, 2008
Well actually Tony, the advice given by the authorities was put out after the Friday snow had caught them out too.

My journey involved going back home after a day's work.

Having lived in the Uk all my life I can honestly say the 99.9% of the populus just have no idea how to be prepared for disaster, they just wait for it to happen and then panic.

Typical examples.

1/ The motorist's stuck at Bringsty and who had abandoned their cars in the road instead of putting them on the verge, then broke into the cafe at the base of the hill to help themselves to supplies.

2/ Because of the inconsiderate way in which vehicles were abandoned on the A4103, that road had to be closed on safety grounds for most of Saturday due to cars being abandoned in the middle of the road.

3/ Even the knights of the road (lorry drivers) who out of the kindness of their hearts gave up the comfort of the warm cab to help those in difficulty got verbally abused for trying assist.

John is quite right, the majority of people who have passed their test in the last 10/15 years have never had the experience of driving on snow.

However it has to be said, that most people seem to consider the passing of their driving test as the pinical of their driving career and nnot as the starting point. By that I mean that people make the same mistake time after time and never seem to want to improve as just because they have a license they seem to think that is good enough.

After passing my driving test 11 days after my birthday, I then sought out our local branch of the institute of advanced motorist's and enroled on one of their coarses. After passing that and gaining a lot more knowledge of driving and safety awareness knowledge, I then went on to become a ROSPA cat 1 driver.

A year or so later I passed my motorcycle test in the same vein.

Five years later I took my HGV1 test and failed it first time (unlike the car and motorcycle test's). So I brushed up on my skills and pssed the test three days later.

Having been a "driver" rather than a motorist for over 30 years I can honestly say that even now I still learn new techniques of driving and am willing to learn and pass knowledge to others.

Sure people need to heed the advice of the councils etc, but places like British Columbia, Scottish Highlands etc don't grind to a halt, they just adapt and get on with day to day living.

A typical example of british panic management was at my work place. I'd planned in a weekend of overtime using those people who could comfortably walk to work if need be, but working on the weather info that was unlikely. So we could run Sat & Sun mornings. What happened? My boss cancelled the overtime due to Friday afternoon's snow!!

Today what have we got? No snow as it's all melted and temperatures of upto 8 deg C.

What's the saying P Poor Planning = P Poor Performance!!!!!!

Dec 16, 2003
In the days when I was an employee and got double time and bonuses for any thing over 39 hours a week and in need of money I went to and from work in one 5/6 day period of snow and ice when hardly anyone in the company could make it in.

I got extra bonus at the month end as not only had I made in for 16 hours days but had done it on a Motorbike.

I can't say it's the best of things I've ever done, but if you take care and go steady and gentle it surprising how easy it is.
Jan 19, 2008
I blame the media for causing a lot of the panic. OK in Herefordshire we were supposed to have had it worse throughout the country but if I heard the words "whiteout" and "snowstorms" once I heard it dozens of times on the radio. I was spitting feathers, someone wants to inform these commentators what whiteout really means. We had a constant falling of heavy flakes with no wind and that doesn't constitute a whiteout or a storm. I was seething so much my family kept mentioning to each other what a terrible whiteout we were having - hehheh! the buggers.

Steve and John L are right, we don't get the snow like we used to hence people have no experience of driving under those conditions.

Regarding Tony A's comment again Steve is right, the forecast for us was cloudy and the snow completely caught the weather people out as well as everybody else and as Steve said he would have been at work when it started.

The last real bad snow was in 82 and my car was snowed in for weeks. One of the Ambulance Service 4x4s used to come and pick us up for work or the people who lived close to the station walked. All the ambulances were fitted with snow chains. Weeks later came the thaw and that meant the River Wye flooded. Hereford got cut in half then and emergency vehicles travelled down an abandoned railway line to get from one side to the other. There was plenty of overtime then and I worked many 16 hour shifts while sleeping at the station. Great times though and having a good crowd to work with made the job enjoyable.
Nov 26, 2006
I think it may have been '82 when I was supposed to go from London to a meeting near Hereford at Madley Earth Station.

It was very cold the night before, but clear and a good forecast, so I was startled to get up in the morning and find a thick layer of snow!

I was using a big motorbike, but I set off anyway assuming it would be OK when I hit the main roads; it wasn't, as there had been no gritting and the snow was just compacted and polished.

What settled it was when I saw a police motorcyclist come off, so I just turned around and headed slowly home. At one point the road was so icy that when stopped, the bike just slid slowly sideways down the camber to lie there in the gutter, leaving me stood on one leg in the road.

I should have known it was a waste of time anyway. Herefordshire was totally stopped, and none of the people I was meeting got there anyway.

I like Hereford, but the winters there used to be a bit sharp, which is why it was not high up on my list of places to retire to.
Jan 19, 2008
Hehheh! Oldfogey, it depends whereabouts in the county you are really. Hereford is in a bowl surrounded by hills and with the one degree difference between towns and country we don't have it any worse than other places with the exception of coastal areas. I recall having to work from Bromyard ambulance station back in the 70s and left home and the weather was fine but when I got to Stoke Lacy there was a covering of the white stuff. Bromyard, 14 miles from Hereford, had snow about 15 inches deep. The high ground get it far worse, especially frosts and fog. That happened to me a few times over the years.

On the news recently they announced that Goonhilly Earth Station is to close and they are expanding Madley Earth Station at Hereford.
May 21, 2008
I agree with you entirely, the radio comentator's were way off the mark of accurate reporting.

I listen to Wyvern. not because it's particularly good, wellexcept for one thing. Keeping me awake coming home the 30 miles from Worcester to Leo, by playing naff music and cracking 20 tear old jokes.

They were very good at over acting when it came to describing the weather and road conditions, which was probably worse than saying nothing, as they seemed to want to panic people.

What ever happened to factual broadcasting?

The best one I had this week was some twit on the radio from a worcester taxi firm describing City walls road in Worcester as getting busy at 06-15 Hrs.

It was "total grid lock man". Just me and me and me in my little red 5. I wonder how they could describe it at 14-30 Hrs!!

Gotta love the drama queen's of radio.
Nov 2, 2005
Well, would you believe it, hubby didn't put my car away and it got covered. It kept me warm while I was expending the energy brushing the snow off, 10 minutes it took.

Then I was off to play in the snow with it.



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