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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 13:13 GMT
The big freeze that gripped Wales
Man carrying sack of coal
Residents were handed out sacks of coal
It is 40 years since heavy snowfalls in the winter of 1963 brought Wales and the rest of Britain to a virtual standstill.

The snow began after Christmas in 1962 and, against all forecasts, lay on the ground until the early spring, bringing chaos to daily life.

Lorries struggled to get vital supplies of coal - the staple source of fuel - through to homes, and power lines and electricity stations in Wales were also badly disrupted.

Man digging coal out of train
Coal was frozen inside the trains and had to be dug out

People were forced to adapt their routines to the conditions, as even the most simple of tasks, like shopping for food and getting to school, proved difficult.

On 28 December 1962, the first heavy fall of snow left roads blocked in Glamorganshire, Breconshire, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire.

The snow became hard-packed in the night and reduced driving conditions to a "dreadful" state.

A Blaenavon council spokesman said: "If the snow gets much worse, the buses will stop and as we have no trains, we will be virtually isolated."

Sick woman rescued

On New Year's Eve, the snow had turned to ice and roads across Wales became treacherous.

The A470 was cut off in mid Wales along with parts of Pembrokeshire.

The National Dairymen's Association warned milk supplies could be hit too.

The RAC's advice to motorists was to ensure they were equipped with spades, blankets and plenty of food.

On 1 January, four policemen and a civilian rescued farmer's wife Dilwyn Griffiths, who was seriously ill with peritonitis at Green Isaf Farm, Wick, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mountain goats near Llanberis
Mountain goats descended in search of food

The ambulance could only travel as far as St Bride's Major, a couple of miles away, and the rescuers pressed on to the farm, led by Sergeant Vernon Knight.

Elsewhere, Elwyn Davies, 29, walked six miles in terrible conditions to go to work at Aberthaw Power Station, which had an essential role to play during the big freeze.

The Western Welsh Bus Company reported routes were closed in the Gwent Valleys.

'Sunday roast safe'

On 3 January, the South Wales Echo's front page read: "Sunday meat and veg safe - provided you can get to the shops".

As January went on, the crisis spread - on 21 January, frozen school pipes set back the 11-Plus exams and 2,000 Rhondda school children were sent home.

Hospital casualty wards were full of patients being treated for broken limbs after falls on black ice.

By 24 January, water was being rationed, as the Water Board struggled to get supplies from reservoirs.

Mountain goats

And in Llanberis, north Wales, the snow was so severe that a flock of wild mountain goats descended from the hills in search of food from houses in the valleys below.

Local farmer Owen Jones said: "The goats are very wild, but they have become tamer because of the cold weather.

"If they come down into the valleys, then snow is a certainty."

The thaw came almost unexpectedly in early February, as rising temperatures finally arrived to release Wales from the grip of the ice and snow.

What was it like for you? Send us your memories of the 1963 big freeze, and any pictures you would like us to display.

Conditions:

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    I haven't got any photos but I have a very clear memory of what the winter was like for a small child.

    I was three years old and remember walking along Redlands Road in Penarth with my father, with the snow piled up on either side.

    A path for pedestrians had been cut in the snowdrifts on the pavement, and the sides were higher than my head, so it was like walking along a trench.

    Whenever I see a bobsleigh run on television it reminds me of the sensation of walking through that white tunnel.

    Laura Woodruff, Penarth

    I remember catching the train from Conwy each weekday to go to Bangor Tech.

    Conwy remained snow-free throughout the big freeze but very cold, but as soon as the train exited the tunnel leading to Penmaenmawr there was plenty of snow.

    Gwynfryn Williams

    Growing up in Flint, my memories of the Big Freeze include, the River Dee near Flint Castle being partially frozen over and full of mini icebergs; the mains water pipe to my parent's house froze, and we were without water for a few days.

    And the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" being my number one choice on the coffee bar juke-box.

    Joe Jones, St Asaph

    Whilst it may have been a horrendous time for adults, as a child of six years it was a magical time. Building an igloo with my older cousin and other children at the "fynnon" in Cwmtwrch Isaf was the best snow memory of my life.

    Jacqueline Bicker

  • See also:

    08 Jan 03 | Wales
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