Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Northern Ireland snow: 'Our family trekked for miles to safety'

Paul Connolly
Stephen Bryden stands in front of a snow drift of at Cairnhill Road outside Carrickfergus. Image sent in by Gerry Millar
Stephen Bryden stands in front of a snow drift of at Cairnhill Road outside Carrickfergus. Image sent in by Gerry Millar

It was an impressive sight. A near mile-long road blocked by multiple snowdrifts, some up to 10ft or more high. Between the drifts, the snow was impressively deep, though beguilingly crisp.

 

It was mid morning on Saturday in the Antrim hills between Carrick and Ballyclare. With no water or electricity for 24 hours, virtually no heating, and mobile phones either dead or dying, we decided to leave home and find sanctuary with relatives.

 

The main problem was how to get out. A Challenger tank couldn’t have navigated our road. The only option was by foot. Full ski gear on, and overnight things packed into rucksacks, we set out.

 

There was another route, just a quarter of a mile and blocked by equally towering drifts. But that would have led us to a three-mile march along a snow-bound main and we did not want to put ourselves at the risk of lorries and cars slip-sliding its narrow and winding route.

 

So we took the longer part of the road. There were four of us (eldest child being away on a school trip) plus dog. Through the snow and arctic winds we plodded, clambering over the drifts, at times waist deep and often standing high above the hedgerows.

 

It was tough going, but spirits were high. Nothing stirred in the surrounding fields, but we knew that in many were new-born lambs, many of which were not going to survive this disastrous cold snap.

 

Finally, after almost an hour we reached the local village, some three hundred feet down the valley. Here, friendly tractors and ploughs had at least cleared single-lane routes.

 

Another hour later, we were at a main highway, and in a car being whisked to Larne, where to our amazement not a single snowflake had fallen.

 

Yesterday morning we borrowed a car and drove back home through narrow roads cut through walls of snow towering up to 16ft. A friendly farmer had unblocked the lane we live on, and our fantastic neighbours, Jim, Janice and family, helped us dig out our cars.

 

The electric was back on and the water too, although reduced to a trickle. Things have started to return to normal, although the landscape is scarred and blasted, like some sort of strange Arctic battleground.

 

 

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