‘Never seen it this bad before’

Howard Williams on his way to buy milk. Yeah,of course Howard

Philip Evans’ snow blog

“I CAN’T remember it this bad before.” It’s the first thing everyone says as we meet in snowbound Lyme Regis, virtually cut off after the storm that promoted the Met Office to issue a Red Warning, the highest level possible with a risk to life.

Fortunately, no lives lost in this corner of Dorset, but a great deal of dignity if my extreme weather outfit is anything to go by!

Up to 20 centimetres of snow fell here yesterday followed by freezing rain which has left a film of ice over the top, making it lethal to walk where the snow ploughs have ignored.

In Lyme it’s just the main street and Hill Road where the emergency services are based that are cleared and gritted. There’s virtually no traffic passing through town, with the exception of a few 4x4s. All the drivers have that smug look on their faces.

All side streets are virtually impassable and the drivers have that “wish I hadn’t tried this” look on their faces.

Early on Lyme was eerily deserted with only the occasional stroller bidding “Good Morning”. Now there’s a thing. When there’s snow on the ground people who would normally ignore you in the street (you will appreciate I get plenty of that) all seem to have a cheery greeting: “Can’t remember it this bad before.”

There’s only a handful of shops open. Sales staff at Arthur Fordham’s look forlornly out the door. Not sure too many people are going to beat it past the bottom of Broad Street for ironmongery in these conditions. But hats off chaps for getting into work.

Skiing down Broad Street

Yesterday, before the show ploughs arrived, I saw a skier careering down Broad Street and many would-be Winter Olympics hopefuls dusting off their toboggans. Hill Road became the Dorset version of Pyeongchang. Other more hardy souls took their make-shift luges – mostly tin trays – out to Middle Mill to take on the slopes of Bumpy Field.

But back to Broad Street where former Regimental Sergeant Major and county councillor Daryl Turner is yomping towards the sea, looking as though he had just conquered the north face of the Eiger, camera kit strapped to his back.

My neighbour and long term pal Howard Williams was striding purposely up the street. On his way, he said, to get some milk. Ah yes,  the Volly – that well known dairy.

By 11 am there’s quite a community spirit in Broad Street where Tesco, as always, is doing a roaring trade, although some shelves look a little forlorn as there have been no deliveries.

“Never seen it this bad before.” Okay, I hear you!

So to answer the big question on everyone’s lips – have we seen it this bad in Lyme before? The worse snow conditions I can remember were in 1978. No one could get out of the town so we all had the day off. It turned into a bit of a festival, and you now how Lyme loves a festival.

Me and my mates gathered at the Ship Inn, our favourite pub in those days when Joe O’Donnell was the landlord, and prepared for the rigours of the day by knocking back numerous whisky and gingers. Never drank it before, never will again.

But it provided plenty of Dutch courage for the challenges of Bumpy Field that beckoned. We stayed so long at the Ship that the light was fading – but not our bravado – by the time we got to Middle Mill.

Conditions today are I think a lot worse, the snow is deeper and the freezing rain certainly increased the danger factor. Someone I am sure will put me right and tell me it was much worse in 1955.

As always in Lyme, there’s tales of good deeds throughout the town, neighbours making sure the elderly and infirm are cared for, and our Mayor, Michaela Ellis, is pictured on social media helping to clear the road into the emergency services centre off Hill Road where husband Alan is a fireman.

Usually in Lyme the snow comes and goes very quickly. But not today. They say we’re in for another deluge this afternoon.

“Never seen it this bad before.” Tomorrow we might well be able to say, with certainty, “me neither”.

Stay warm.

Take a look at our Photo Gallery for more photos of Lyme Regis in the snow

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 214 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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