While Peeblesshire basks in the sunshine, Chris Atkinson from the West Linton Historical Association takes us back to remember the 'big freeze'...

SOME of you will remember the winter of 1947. It was the winter of the “big freeze”. Heavy snowfalls had blocked many roads and railways with drifts as high as twenty feet cutting off supplies of coal vital for the supply of gas and electricity. It was the coldest winter since 1880-81. Coal or wood was the fuel in West Linton in those days. A trip to the coal yard in your car was a risky business and could end in disaster but the village pulled through somehow. ’Carry on by candle light’ was the motto.

In most winters the main road from Edinburgh would be blocked for a while and people knew to stock up with food and fuel but 1962 was particularly bad with heavy snow shutting down all roads leading into the village for some while.

“Hundreds trapped in Border Blizzards”. So read the “Peeblesshire” of 29th December 1978. 300 vehicles were stuck on Soutra. Meanwhile things were not much better in West Linton where around 140 people were trapped in abandoned cars and lorries to be rescued by police and local volunteers. All the local hotels and some private houses took in the stranded. It was reported that this was the worst blizzard for 15 years. The extreme cold down to minus 20 degrees centigrade caused the water main down Main Street to freeze adding to the already difficult conditions.

Roads were blocked again in Jan 1984. Very cold weather in the winter of 1995 caused many pipes in the village to be frozen with subsequent bursts leading to the temporary evacuation of many homes.

Another winter of heavy snowfalls was in 2001 when people again struggled on foot to reach the village for provisions.

The very long hard winter of 2009-10 was however the worst in living memory for the hill farmers around West Linton when it caused great hardship. Very heavy snow and hard frost that winter had started early, mid-December, and kept on until the end of January when a slight thaw set in but not enough to clear the snow. In February the snow returned. Winter feed was running out and livestock on the hill starved. Spring came at last and the ewes produced weak thin lambs. The green pasture returned, the winter was over, but not yet. The weather forecast on March 30th predicted 40 centimetres of snow. Winter came for a second time with a vengeance. This was more than the livestock could take, for in one day hundreds of sheep, lambs and cattle perished under the arctic conditions. A most cruel blow for the livestock and the unfortunate farmers.

When the ‘Beast from the East’ arrived this year, we were better prepared. Nevertheless, its effect was wide ranging and those able to hunker down with winter supplies at hand were the fortunate ones and could emerge afterwards to marvel at the change to the landscape