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News > REMINISCENCES > The Big Freeze at Walhampton

The Big Freeze at Walhampton

Mr Hill recounts the winter of 1962/63 which was one of the coldest on record in the UK.

Winter 1962/3 at Walhampton
Winter 1962/3 at Walhampton
Mr David Hill gives us his account of the Big Freeze and its impact on Walhampton:
 
This photograph of a spectacular scene at the top of the glade was taken during the Big Freeze, either in January or February of 1963.
 
The first snow of the Freeze fell in Lymington on December the 26th, 1962, but there was a major blizzard over the 29th and 30th, and further snow fell intermittently thereafter during January and February, 1963, and successive hard frosts resulted in the ground being permanently frozen and covered with snow into March, the first morning of the year without frost being that of March the 6th.
 
The Walhampton ponds froze so hard that opportunities were taken to fell unwanted trees that were growing along the ponds' somewhat overgrown banks. Where expedient, arising brushwood was disposed of by burning on the frozen ponds, with little impact upon the ice.
 
The tree growth on the fairly prominent islands on Portmore pond was also reduced, and once this had been done the need for topping up the islands' soil levels was noted. It was decided to undertake this using the School's grey Ferguson TE20 petrol paraffin tractor, a light machine as tractors go, with a substantial trailer in tow.
 
Several days after the commencement of this task, a gentle easing of the icy grip occurred, but good progress was being made, so a hint of a race against time was sensed. Work continued apace, trailer load by trailer load, and the end of the task was anticipated as the Ferguson tractor was returning to the bank after completing the topping up.
 
Unfortunately, as the front wheels of the tractor ascended the bank, there was a sound like a pistol shot as the ice cracked and the rear wheels and trailer sank up to their axles.
 
Fortunately though, the School had recently acquired a Landrover, and this proved equal to the task of hauling the tractor and trailer out of the icy mire. 
 
More generally, a sad but remarkable effect of the Freeze was the appearance of a number of distressed wild birds of various species that had been driven south by the freezing conditions. I recall trying in vain to rehabilitate woodcock that seemed capable only of fluttering around like large moths, having been been weakened by starvation as a result of their inability to penetrate the frozen soil with their beaks. The markings of these birds ranged from the familiar to almost pure white, the lighter ones, apparently, having originated in Scandinavia.
 
Another remarkable effect of the Freeze that was easily observed around Lymington, was the extent to which rivers and the sea froze solid. 

Does anyone remember being at School during this time? How did you manage?

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