Tuesday, 12 January 2010

"Barely passable, with extreme caution"

I now know what that means when referring to a road over a hill in Wales!!!

In the end after aborting getting my son back to Aberystwyth at the weekend we heard that friends of his were making it back ok so we set off Monday morning. We had a really good run, M25 quieter than you'd expect on a Monday, the Dartford Crossing queue free for example. We thumped up the M1, M6 and onto the M6 Toll where we stopped for the usual exorbitant snack lunch. Push on along the M54 and A5... everywhere blanketed in snow with Kent where we live and the M6 Toll looking the biggest snow falls.

Into Wales through Welshpool and the amount of snow on the ground increased esp. through Newtown. Then the climb up over the mountains. Stunning! The most wonderful sight! It was clear and sunny and white peak after white peak in front of us and walls of snow and ice on either side. I remarked I was hugely impressed that the council had got and kept the road so clear esp given our local council has struggled to clear the bus routes in our town. Then down the other side to Aberystwyth itself. Bizarre! Hardly any snow, honestly it's virtually clear there, apparantly it has hardly ever snowed there.

Anyway Tuesday morning I get up and leave the hotel and start to head back. No more snow but the wind had picked up a lot, I didn't get 10 miles until I had to turn around. The first big slope up to the hills was covered and very very slippery. Most small vehicles were turning around and not risking it, I decided not to risk it if the locals weren't. The local advice (thanks to the ladies at the little petrol station I asked at) was to head south on the coast road and then to pick up the M4, a route I'd considered Monday but it is a lot longer in distance and time. With snow forecast for later in the day coming from the south I wondered at the sense of driving toward that region. Still, I looked at the map picked my route... to Cardigan down the coast road all the way then up over the hills and down to pick up the A40/A48 straight onto the M4.

Drifts! Never seen this before but any break in the road side cover and snow was billowing from the fields across the road. Most were a few metres long and easily negotiated. Others much longer. One had a van already buried in the remains of a wall where he'd gone too fast. One down hill caught me out; I stupidly touched the brakes and I completed the last 20% of it sideways and grateful the guy at the bottom had seen me and waited a long way back before he started his assent. Then over the A478 - it was good at the start and I climbed up behind a lorry I'd been following virtually all the way, he was becoming my good luck talisman I decided. Then more and more drifts, that were deeper and longer with the car bottoming out as I straddled the ruts left by my talisman ahead. I came around one corner to see the lorry disappearing in a cloud of snow. This was a big drift and long, I couldn't see the end and the wind was whipping a lot of snow across the road. Into 2nd gear and in I went. Suddenly all visibility was lost and I bumped along the ruts. "Sweet Mother!" is all I remember thinking. Another car suddenly loomed up going in the other direction, then again total white out as I edged onward. It can't have been much more than 1/4 of a mile but it was bloody frightening. When I got out the other side the lorry was a lot further ahead, no doubt he had some vision higher up... if not he had balls of steel! After that it was reasonably plain sailing although it was a much longer trip in terms of mileage and time taken than the day before.

Once on the A40 I tuned into BBC Radio Wales, I'd not done so before as frankly not hearing about the road I was on had been my philosophy... wisely! In the middle of the list of closures, including the A44 (blocked by drifts and at least one stuck lorry) I'd started out on originally there was this "A478 is barely passable with extreme caution"... oh that was what that was... felt more like total fear to me!

More snow predicted here tonight... come on give us a break, the school only reopened today for my daughter.


  1. I love snow... send me what you don't want hehe ;)

    Hope all is well otherwise!

  2. Sounds pretty perrilous to me, glad to read you eventually arrived home safely. The only problem I've had with transport in this weather is my car not starting because of the cold although it's nothing that a squirt of the old Easy Start can't handle. I've become quite bored of the snow but I would've loved to have seen that Welsh mountain range.