Snow in 1962


The Big Freeze of 1962-3 in Combe Raleigh – by Sue Reece

The snow started to fall on Boxing Day of ’62. It snowed heavily through that night and into the next day, and then a huge blizzard swept through from 29-30 December leaving the village totally cut off from the outside world. I was just turned eight at the time, and my older sister Laura was nine years old. We lived with our parents, Dan and Biddy Keely, at Highfield.

To a small child of course the amount of snow seemed absolutely epic, and the photos show that some of the drifts, especially on the top road, were level with the tops of the hedges. They were beautifully sculptural where the wind had shaped them making it a magical time of transformed landscapes.

Not being able to get supplies soon became a concern, and the men from the village banded together to dig a way through on the lower road to Honiton that was at least passable on foot. Later on the army and snow ploughs cleared the top road.

It remained bitterly cold for at least two months and because the water in the outdoor toilets at our primary school in Honiton was frozen the school stayed closed for a long time. Barbara Doidge who taught there held classes at Paradise Cottage where she lived, and I remember very cosy lessons overseen by her large tabby cat.

There was plenty of playing in the snow too. The two best fields were the one behind our house and the village hall, and the one opposite Paradise Cottage. What little melting there was during the day quickly froze again at night forming an icy crust over the snow, a perfect recipe for fast runs on tin tray or sledge.

My father made a pair of skis from an old piano lid – rather heavy but they did work reasonably well. He also made a two-person sledge from a sheet of corrugated iron, carefully turning in the sharp edges. This went like a bomb down the hills, and one day my sister Laura and Mickey Powers were riding it down the hill opposite Paradise Cottage when it became obvious that it was going to crash into the hedge at the bottom. Laura, in front, rolled off but Mickey stayed on and broke his leg!

When the thaw finally came in early March the river flooded throwing huge floes of ice up onto the banks. It had been a very long, hard winter, and it must have been a struggle for the older people in the village and those on the outlying farms, but for us kids it set the standard for snowfall and nothing has come close to it since.

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