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A grim time of snow sentries standing guard

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 05, 2013

  • Bulldozer stuck on the road to Roachill, in Devon, January 5, 1963

  • Road leading into east Knowstone during the winter of 1963

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Fifty years ago saw a fall of snow which at the time I wished had come when I was nine instead of 15. I remember waking up – I believe it was December 29 – and, finding my bedroom bathed in a luminous glow, I assumed the front court of Eastacott farm would be under snow. Rushing to the window I stared out. Barely a covering on the ground, but against the barn wall a snow drift which reached up to the roof, caused by the ferocity of the wind during one of the worst blizzards since 1947.

Roads leading into East Knowstone were blocked by drifts and were impassable for days. Knowstone was also cut off, and when the owner of the village shop and post office attempted to thaw out his pipes under the thatched roof with, it is thought, a blowtorch, disaster struck. Fire engines were unable to reach the village, and all that remained of the building were charred walls.

My aged maiden aunt was not impressed by the extreme cold and kept muttering, "Where will it all end, I ask myself". Why she was asking herself I never found out. Most of her time was spent in thawing out our pipes with a rubber hot water bottle containing water collected from the stream and boiled over the open fire. It was a grim time, even though the shapes carved out by the wind were spectacular. Ghostly sentries standing guard over the stable, shippens, barn, linhay and hedges.

The thaw eventually arrived, but the remnants of the worse fall of snow on record lingered in the hedge troughs and ditches until almost the end of March.

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