/ Travel & Leisure

Has the snow scuppered your travel plans?


Snow has fallen across large parts of the country over the past couple of days, leaving roads closed, trains delayed, flights cancelled and all-round chaos in the run up to Christmas. Have your plans been affected?

On Sunday morning, much like large parts of the UK, I awoke to see a blanket of white covering my garden, the trees and even a snowdrift up the windows.

I knew the snow was forecast, but I had blindly ignored the severity of it. For me, that was hardly a problem as my grandest plan for the day was to cook a roast while writing my Christmas cards.

But for others, the pretty snow covering was more like snowmageddon that rocked-up to ruin their plans.

Planes, trains and automobiles

If you were brave enough to venture out onto the roads, then you may know that snow closed motorways and major routes for parts of yesterday and today too – a friend of mine spent seven hours driving what would normally be a 45 minute journey to work due to road closures. A full working day before he’d even started!

For those heading to the airport (once they finally got there) many faced severe disruptions, with delays having rolled into a second day. Those hoping to travel in or out of Heathrow with British Airways are thought to be worst affected. Frustratingly for British Airways passengers, while most rival airlines managed to operate out of Heathrow on Monday, British Airways has been cancelling flights.

When flights are delayed or cancelled, under Denied Boarding Regulations (EU 261), airline passengers are entitled to:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails,
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay,
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required

The regulations also require that your airline lets you choose either to rebook onto a different flight with them, or onto another airline flying to your destination at no further cost to you, or to cancel your booking a claim a full refund.

BA has confirmed that it will rebook passengers on alternative flights and, importantly, that this will include booking seats with other airlines so that passengers can travel as soon as possible.
If those passengers were granted with the Christmas gift of auto-compensation then it would be far easier for them to re-route their plans and book with a different airline.

Trains have also been subject to delays and cancellations since yesterday. My neighbours shared their frustration with me as they were unable to travel into London for a much anticipated family trip to watch Christmas panto yesterday.

All day, the trains bounced from running OK to being delayed and then cancelled. There’s no clear route for a refund or compensation for ruined Christmas plans due to severe weather, so I suppose they just had to make do with building a snowman instead πŸ™‚

Snow stories

So, were your plans grounded by the snow? Have you had to cancel and rebook any travel plans?


We have low temperatures but all seems to be running normally.

Last week I went to a picked up my car from a city park & ride car park. The roads were very congested and some tempers were becoming frayed at rush-hour, not helped by the steady snowfall. I decided to stop at a retail park and waste an hour and a half to allow the traffic to clear, by which time the snow had stopped.

I’m planning to a journey of over 400 miles before Christmas but don’t intend to drive if the weather conditions are poor. Only once in fifteen years has the weather been poor before the journey and a neighbour kindly took me in for a Christmas meal since I had not bought food for Christmas, expecting to be away.

Until then, I will stay at home as much as possible until it warms up.

That’s lovely to hear your neighbour was so kind!

I wouldn’t drive in the snow, I only have a little car and I doubt it would handle very well. I did use my car on yesterday and I had to ‘chisel’ off about 3 inches of ice/snow from my windscreen, took 20 minutes and I broke my Boots loyalty card (yes, I need to invest in a scraper) Luckily, our roads are mainly clear now but there’s no signs of it warming up any time soon 😞😞

That’s reminded me to search for my heavy duty scraper which had disappeared when I needed it a few days ago. It was hiding under the passenger’s seat. I have put 75% additive in the screen wash, which is a great help in dealing with thin ice.

The frost has gone and it’s up to 5Β°C here, so I will venture out this afternoon.

I had to go out for the first time last night. During the day I cleared off 2 inch thick solid frozen snow from the windscreen and roof (helped by an efficient defroster), turned the car in the drive and drove to the gate to ensure a smooth getaway later on. Upon our evening departure the job I’d overlooked became rapidly apparent – the 6 inch high ridge of frozen snow piled across our exit by 3 days of intrepid traffic. By this time the back wheels were on ice on the pavement and we could neither go forwards, nor backwards. A search in the garage produce a small shovel and a few minutes hacking and scraping finally loosed us upon the outside world, to our relief.

Alex, don’t worry about the snow. Have a (careful) go as you may have to drive in it some time. High a gear as possible and gentle on accelerator and brake, and go as slow as you feel comfortable with; don’t worry about the others.

That reminded me that I had bought a small shovel a few years ago but never needed it. It is now in the car, along with a set of heavy-duty jump leads. A neighbour appeared at the door recently and asked for a jump start.

Yesterday I wrapped up warm and walked to the village shops. My car is safely tucked away in the garage where it will remain until conditions improve. I did my big shop online last night and, fingers crossed, it will be delivered tomorrow at midday.

In 1963 we were the only ones to clear away all the snow from the front drive and were the only house with frozen pipes and no running water. My neighbour came to the rescue by allowing me to fill the bathtub with buckets of water from her tap which lasted until it thawed about 6 weeks later. I was advised (after the event) that snow acts as an insulator on paths in sub-zero temperatures and so I am leaving it to melt along with the 3 snowmen dotted around the green.

It’s pouring with rain here at the moment and I need to put the bins out for emptying. I am tempted to leave them in the hope the recent snow will delay the waste collection due tomorrow.

Winter has now well and truly arrived but it’s only a week to go before the days start to draw out again and all the Christmas lights are gradually appearing in neighbours houses, adding a little festive cheer to dampened spirits.

Thanks for the advice, Malcolm. I will give it a go some time, but I think I may have missed my chance for this year πŸ™ Ours are clear now. Who knows, if we get snow on Christmas the roads might be quiet enough to practice – wishful thinking though.

Beryl, that’s really interesting about your pipes. I would have assumed the snow would have frozen the pipes, rather than insulated them! Very interesting, and one to remember for many winters to come. Thank you.

Not a good idea to clear all the snow from areas where you have underground pipes, especially from the tiny grids or covers which reveal a stop c**k around 20″ below. But where it’s simply pipes with no access grids or covers the earth covering should insulate it sufficiently.

Some years ago we experienced -15C for around two weeks and didn’t experience any frozen pipes.

I presume that snow will protect the plumbing against wind chill.

In my previous home, there were pipes embedded in a north-facing wall and they sometimes froze when there was a cold wind, even when I left heating on, but I never had a burst. I’m much happier about being able to avoid frozen pipes in my new home. I hope everyone has turned off the water to outside taps.

Sorry, Wavechange, I haven’t turned off the outside taps I’m afraid. It didn’t cross my mind. We have never had a problem with frozen outside taps possibly because we have no need to use them at this time of the year and if they do freeze up it’s better that they thaw out naturally.

Over the years we have had more problems with plastic waste water outlets freezing up and cracking. At least in our new house all the waste water outlets and soil pipes are entirely internal within the structure and directly discharging into the drains. We have never had a problem since being here.

Most houses are kept well above freezing nowadays but the weak point remains the waste outlets from baths and washbasins where they are exposed on the outside wall and in a heavy frost any slow moving water can freeze right back to the U-bend or trap. I remember seeing in our family home in the early 1960’s water running down the electric cable from the ceiling rose to the light fitting in the hall; the waste from the washbasin in the bathroom above had expanded and cracked leading to a leak that had found its way to the electric lighting point under the floorboards.

Walk ? Beryl good for you but many car drivers have forgotten that they once learned to walk so now travel everywhere by car and need to get as close as possible to where the have to be so they have no need to walk at all

You’ve got inside taps?!! Where would I wash if I turned off the supply to the outside tap?

You wash?!! If we did that, we’d die from cold. Its only the layered-on dirt that stops us freezing.

You’ve got layered-on dirt?? We can only afford a thin film.

This reminds me of Monty Python. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAdlkunflRs

We had the first snow Friday & by 7pm the taxis had stopped operating & the buses at 8pm. I had to clear the snow off my car to get a stranded friend back from town (4 mile round trip). The snow was slush but driving was possible with care. Apparently there wasn’t hotel bed left unoccupied that evening. It has got steadily worse all weekend. Today, although the main roads/bus routes were gritted the Council cancelled the wheelie bin collections. Closing the schools hasn’t helped as the kids have had a “field day” making ice slides on the pavements! I am not going out tomorrow as we are due a -7 temp. overnight. A Birmingham hospital had to appeal for drivers of 4×4’s to get Drs & Nurses to work.

Why does the UK come to a grinding halt every time we have a snow?

I am afraid, Carole, we have been asking that question every time we have had difficult winter weather for as long as I have been alive and there never seems to be a satisfactory answer.

One excuse is that we so rarely have seriously bad weather for more than a few days that it is not worth investing in the sort of measures needed to cope with it. I just hope we don’t get a 1947 or a 1963 winter ever again. In both those years the snow lasted for months, feet deep in many places, and the country really did come to a standstill with food shortages, no fuel, power cuts, and the army and prisoners having to dig out trains stuck in snowdrifts. We are a lot more resilient now, thank goodness, but this weather still catches us unprepared.

People should be careful when brushing and shovelling snow in freezing conditions. It requires a lot of energy and if people are not used to such physical exercise it can be harmful. The cold and rarefied air can cause breathing difficulties and there is an increased risk of heart attacks. Pushing snow with a snow shovel works quite well if started early before it becomes compressed but it is advisable to take frequent breaks.

John, I wasn’t about for the 1947 winter but have heard stories of it from my parents but I do remember the 1963 one. Walked 3 miles to primary school with the snow coming over the top of my wellies! No elec. & definitely no buses (that didn’t matter as there wasn’t any money for fares!)

I think there is validity in the argument that in parts of the UK where snow is very rare or short lived, it does not warrant the great expense needed for extensive clearing equipment that is idle almost all the time. However we live in such an area and the gritters have been out, and they do fit snowploughs when necessary. The Highways Agency are also making their 4x4s available to the emergency services.

However, I could ask the same question of individuals: how many have a 4×4 just in case of snow? Or fit winter tyres, or have a set of chains? Properly equipped we could all keep moving on the roads if we prepared our cars accordingly – but you’d be taking the chains off in a couple of days, and your 4×4 would just be an expensive toy most of the time. Perhaps that’s partly why we grind to a halt?
However without those aids all my children got to and from work today (driving 20 miles each way) even though we’d advised them not to venture out, so the roads had been looked after fairly well.

Things don’t stop here when it snows – except they do close the schools, but that’s primarily to lessen the impact on the roads. We do have a 4×4, which we need for several reasons, snow being one of them. But mud, heavy rain and wind are all more safely navigated with a big 4×4.

But the bin lorries and the posties still make it out and round. There’s also the community spirit, which sees those of us with 4x4s offering to help out with hospital journeys, running medical staff around and so on.

WHY ?? Health and Safety maybe ??

Er, no; the snow was so deep ordinary cars couldn’t get through. The advantages of a good 4×4 meant that we could always leave the actual roads if needs be and get around those trapped. Usually, a lorry stuck somewhere.

When did we change from 4WD to 4×4, and why?

When 16 wheels sounded more impressive than 4? 😎

I’m also curious why W?Cs doesn’t seem to want to print the letter ‘x’, as in ‘4×4’. Might be easier to say ‘4WD’ in future, though not easier to type.

On the snow and ice front, we returned from a trip this morning and encountered the usual steep track, covered in snow and ice, and I have to say that I’d recommend the Toyota 4WDs to anyone. They don’t miss a beat climbing the iciest and snowiest hills in our experience, and they’re indispensable where we live.

Our garden waste bin was due for emptying this morning but the crew left a form to say they couldn’t do so because it was frozen up. I must admit we weren’t expecting an overnight snowfall that then suddenly froze solid just before dawn; when I know there’s severe weather on the way I usually leave a stick under the lid so it can be opened easily but last night was much colder than the one before and took a lot of people by surprise. The bin won’t be emptied till after Christmas now but that won’t matter as I am not planning on doing any gardening in present conditions. To get the bin back in the garden I had to unfreeze the padlocks on the side gate and I haven’t had to do that for a long time.

This evening a friend mentioned having a problem opening the bin in the current freezing weather. I mentioned that I had been advised to use a stick to prevent the lid closing fully. It’s amazing what you can learn from the internet. πŸ™‚

Before winter I usually put a little light oil in padlocks to keep them operating freely and prevent them freezing up. Products designed for the job are also available.

Twice when I have been visiting friends over Christmas they have really struggled to get their rear wheel drive cars up the slope and on to the road, despite having winter tyres. My front wheel drive car with the standard tyres had no difficulty in either case.

Did they ever attempt the ascent in reverse, Wavechange?

That might have worked but they did not try it. We eventually managed to move one car using a sand/salt mixture and the other with the help of old fashioned sacks.

Curious. It suggests that where the rear driving wheels were was perhaps mud or something on which they could not purchase. Winter tyres , provided they still have effective depth of rubber, should work fine.

BMW’s make play of their neutral balance of the car so where they involved? These details help you know wc. And FWD cars having the heavy engine atop the drive wheels tend to perform better in this situation. And of course big fat tyres also tend to spread the weight which also makes the penetration to tarmac less efficient. AFAIR my recommended winter tyres were thinner than my summer tyres.

And if you think 4WD is an automatic lifesaver you can see many videos online proving that they also benefit from winter tyres. It is embarrassing to a see a fully tarted-up RangeRover failing to make a small slope on summer tyres.

As to 4WD as opposed to 4×4 I am sure it is marketing speak driven. ………

The driving wheels were on ice or snow and the tyres were in very good condition. I’ve just spoken to the same friend and her husband is having the same problem this year, so the car is not being taken onto the drive until the snow goes. I have little doubt that wide wheels are part of the problem. Fine for wet conditions but not for snow.