Moving to the countryside: Part 15: snow business

It's snow day in the Brecon Beacons – everyone stays at home

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After a few false dawns, the snow finally came in the night. I’d arrived home from work at 7.30pm with the Met Office’s dire warnings still buzzing around my head. But it was deceptively warm (2°C) so I decided not to leave the car at the bottom of the hill. Big mistake – woke up and we’d had eight inches of the white stuff. No way I’m getting out today – even in the 4×4.

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However, my wife, being fantastic, has long prepared for this siege. The freezer and larder are full and we’ve logs to last a month. And broadband is working so it’s no problem (yet) with missing a day in the office.

But, my goodness, it is beautiful out here. Earlier, I took a long (long!) coffee break to go tobogganing with my wife and son – first time for me since the heavy snow of late 1978 cut off my home village of Castle Cary in Somerset and we sledged for a week.

Snow hangs heavily off the flimsiest of tree branches and we can hear sudden loud cracks and crunches from the forests as tree limbs give way. More wood for the woodburner in due course though more than once I’ve thought it sounded as if someone is out with a shotgun.


A fox has been through the garden – its single-file footprint hugging a hedge but quickly filled in by the still falling snow. And the bird life is extraordinary. A restless flock of redwings 200 strong – with a few fieldfares – has been circling the valley outside my office window all morning, while the birdfeeders are hidden beneath families of long-tailed, coal, blue and great tits. Robins, dunnocks and blackbirds forage for anything that falls – I cut up some apples and slices of bread for them.

Best of all was a low-flying flock of lapwings – a new garden tick (species seen from the garden) as was a lone skylark trilling dejectedly as it flew down into the Usk Valley. A small flock of bullfinches has been lurking around the laurels at the foot of the garden – who knows what they’re finding to eat.

Our plumber, bless him, phoned to see how we were and whether the new boiler system he’d put in was working. It is. He’s cut off, too – with 4ft of drifted snow blocking his lane. He’s 100m higher up, and so the wind skims snow off the peaks and dumps it into any gulleys, which is what most lanes are in this part of the world.

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It’s weekend ahead but at some stage I’m going to have to plan how to get one of the cars down the hill…