Monday, January 4, 2010

December 2009 - Christmas in UK

19 December – Parcent

The day before we returned to UK for Christmas and New Year we woke to find snow on the hills opposite the house. The last time we saw this view was six years ago, so such views have a novelty value. We were disappointed that our son, who lives in Rothbury, a small town north of Newcastle, was particularly unimpressed when we sent him a copy of these photographs

21 December - Rothbury

As we left Alicante the pilot confirmed that they had just taken on extra fuel, as Newcastle airport was closed due to heavy snow. It was open again by the time we arrived, but we then had to face an hour’s drive to Rothbury on icy and snow covered roads, getting worse as we left the major roads for the minor ones. Fortunately my son has a four wheel drive car.

23 December – Rothbury

This is a well known walking area, and in previous years we had always been able to walk in the nearby hills. It had often been cold and icy, but nothing like this. The best we were able to manage was a walk to the town centre and a short walk along the river bank. The extra bulk is provided by many layers of clothing, assisted by lots of comfort eating to keep warm.

26 December – Whitley Bay

By Boxing Day we were all ready for some fresh air. My son was dismissive about our worries about the drive to Whitley Bay, and he was proved right. The roads were covered in hard ice, but they are used to minus 4C temperatures in this area and the main roads were reasonably clear and sanded. The beach was covered in snow, and we were surprised to find some hardy locals swimming in the sea! This is an annual thing, and there were hundreds of well wrapped spectators for each swimmer.

27 December – Simonside Hills

Despite a night of more snow and minus 4C, we wrapped up and set off for a walk in the local hills. The paths were icy and required some care, but there was always hard packed snow beside the path which was easier to walk on. We were quite surprised to find quite a few other walkers, one of whom took this photo of us together.

27 December – Simonside Hills

This walk usually takes about four hours, with two or three stops to admire the views. Today it was too cold to stop for more than a few minutes, but the going was so difficult that it still took four hours. Half way around the sky turned very dark and light snow turned to heavy sleet. We were soaked and miserable by the time we got home. We had enjoyed most of the walk, but would not attempt it again unless the weather improved.

31 December – Rothbury

Throughout the previous night it had snowed, and snowed and snowed. We woke to thick snow everywhere. In fact you could not tell the road from the pavements. I began to understand why most locals drive four by four vehicles. Even in this weather one of our neighbours had already departed on his journey. There was not much point in taking the car, so we set out to walk to the town. However Jack was fascinated by the snow and the possibilities of snow ball fights, and would not move more than a few yards from the house.

31 December – Rothbury

Jan and I walked into the town centre. It was almost midday and there were no cars moving, and very few people. But as we walked around the first snow plough drove through, quickly followed by half a dozen cars.

1 January – Rothbury

New Years Day was more of the same, and again we walked into the town. We wanted to make sure that the roads were still open, as our return flight was midday 2 January. We were confident we could manage on the main roads, but were worried about the local ones. Two days earlier the bus taking Michelle home from work had stopped its journey at Morpeth, and Stuart had to go and collect her. Not sure what happened to the passengers who did not know anyone with a four wheel drive!

2 January – Rothbury

We checked that the Newcastle airport was open, and had a trouble free drive there. However as we were about to board the flight was cancelled when the pilot refused to fly when it was discovered that there were frozen water pipes on the plane. We were eventually taken to the local Holiday Inn for the night, then a 200 mile drive to East Midlands Airport for our alternative return flight to Alicante. Unfortunately this one was delayed by two hours, and it was 2am when we finally arrived home – 29 hours late!