Archive for August 19th, 2008

Pontypool’s big freeze of 1941

August 19, 2008

It was during the winter of 1941 that we had the big freeze. January had been very cold and it was followed by heavy snow falls in February. We had no warning as it happened so suddenly. Northerly and north-easterly winds had kept the temperature down very low for a long period One winter night it rained heavily, then, very quickly the ground temperature dropped massively causing every drop of rain that fell to freeze on whatever it landed.

Consequently, when we woke up the following morning we witnessed both beauty and tragedy. The branches, twigs and leaves on every tree were coated in a layer of ice; they looked as though they were in a glass casing. It was a beautiful sight that I shall never forget.

Unfortunately all the telegraph wires were also coated in ice and the weight of it made them hang down in great clusters. Some were so heavy that they snapped and were strewn on the ground in frozen bundles.

On that day I had to go to Pontnewynydd for some reason or other; I can’t remember what it was but it might have been either to take my mother’s grocery list to Wheeler’s shop or to visit Osborne Cottage ( I wrapped up warm against the freezing cold and set out. Naturally there were all sorts of frozen patches and puddles on the roads but I managed to negotiate them without too much difficulty. Wainfelin Road, being flat, was not too bad either, but as I turned the corner to approach the top of Merchant’s hill things became precarious and I started to slither about on the slope.

My journey down Merchant’s Hill was even more difficult and I had a job to stay on my feet as I walked around the frozen patches. But what a sight met my eyes at the bottom of the hill. From there to the Pavilion cinema is a large wide and flat stretch and evidently the rain falling on the hills at both ends had run down onto that area. Consequently it looked like a skating rink with thick ice all over it. It was quite impossible to walk around this area as it completely covered the road, so I was compelled to walk over the huge area of solid ice slithering all over the place in the process.

My return journey was no less hazardous, and climbing back up Merchant’s Hill was even worse than walking down. I was very glad when School Lane came in sight; it had been a very tiring walk.  When I was in sight of my house, Garfield, I walked past the hedge which still skirted the side of the field at that time. I tapped some of the twigs to see if the ice would fall off. But it didn’t, instead the whole twig just snapped off the bush.

When the temperature rose again the ice melted but it left behind an unbelievable amount of damage. It was weeks before some of the overhead cables were repaired, but it was a unique experience and I’ve never seen anything like it since. The temperature continued to remain low until the third week of June when, to everyone’s relief we had four weeks of warm sunny weather.