Val's Winter Blog

Here we are at the end of January!  Christmas is but a distant memory, you’ve lapsed on at least two new year resolutions, caught up on all the box sets and it’s wet, cold and dark outside. So, make yourself a nice cup of tea and snuggle down for a trip back in time.

The forecast for the week ahead is looking pretty grim with snow on the cards for many of us, so let’s start with BRADFORD UNDER SNOW (1910s). This is a film showing various places in Bradford and Saltaire when they were covered in snow.  You can’t help gasping at the seemingly inappropriate suit jackets, hats and overcoats they all wear for working in the cold and wet.

Talking about inappropriate clothing, check out the chosen outfits for adventurous trekking in the Peak District snow, shot by Sheffield filmmaker K.G. Tofield.  In WHITE WORLD (1945) we see blizzards, fabulous views. dramatic natural ice sculptures and impossible treks in glamourous clothes. How did they all not freeze to death? Also watch and re-watch the mesmerising film, again by K. G. Tofield, SKATING AND SNOW (1936-1953).  This is a collection of four films which capture the beautiful winter scenery and the talented, supremely graceful skaters in the Sheffield area. They make it look so effortless.

Sticking to wintery pursuits this next film is rather extreme, so it is best just watched on a screen and not actually pursued. Indeed, when it was first broadcast by Yorkshire Television on 21st February 1979 it gained 20 million viewers.  ONCE IN A LIFETIME: THE UNDERGROUND EIGER (1979) begins with an aerial view over a snow covered, rather bleak looking Ingleborough, with a commentary about the explorations of the caves, rivers that exist underground particularly the most mysterious Underground Eiger. It features two divers, Geoff Yeadon and Oliver Statham, who over several years have explored and plotted the caving system beneath the moors of Ingleborough before completing the dive from Keld Head to West Kingsdale Master Cave, beneath Ingleborough in North Yorkshire, on January 16th, 1979.  Brave, frightening, awesome and much too dangerous. Beginning to think I am an armchair wimp!

However picturesque snow may be, the next film is a reminder of how devasting harsh weather can be to humans and animals alike. Beginning in January 1947, when Britain was just recovering from World War 2, several cold spells brought large drifts of snow to the country, blocking roads and railways, which then caused problems transporting, amongst other things, coal to power stations and thus forcing severe restrictions to power consumption. 

According to the records, snow fell every day somewhere in the UK for a run of 55 days and because the temperature barely exceeded freezing, much of the snow settled for weeks on end.

SNOW AND FLOOD (1947) is one of a large collection of British Rail films and shows the huge blizzards and large snow drifts on the South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway running through Stainmore in the winter of 1947. The closed line is being cleared by gangs of men, snow ploughs and rail-mounted jet engines blasting the snow. We can see a fire lit next to the track, presumably to help clear the snow. The end section shows how ice melting then causes severe flooding on the railway at Barlby near Selby.

Phew, let’s hope nothing is as bad as that again. To start thinking positively about the year ahead, how about watching REDCAR FOR HOLIDAYS (1935). Calm, simple, unrushed holidaying in Britain. Right, now it’s time to do something to prepare for spring.  Go clean your plant pots, start forcing the rhubarb for delicious silky fruit but don’t forget to put some extra food out for those hungry birds.