Notes from The Cart Track February 13th 2021

What a selection of weather conditions we have had over the last three weeks, floods, gales, brilliant sun, fog and snowfall, which has turned the Suffolk Lowlands into something much more exotic. I am very glad that after four decades of being tied to pigs’ tails I do not have to worry about thawing out water pipes and pig drinkers each morning. I am not looking forward to the result of 15 cm of snow melting onto already saturated land but perhaps we will get some drying winds to sort it all out.

We are part of Suffolk highways conscripted snow clearance contractors who get called upon to clear snow drifts on the minor roads in the area. We use our telescopic loader and JCB digger to assist doing A roads first, B roads second and the smaller roads last. People watching from the cab is a fascinating experience. Adverse weather really does bring out the best and worse in drivers. Clearing single track roads which are impassable is the best experience because nothing can get past so progress can be rapid. A roads which are partially blocked can be exciting because it is legal to travel at 60mph even when it is icy! B roads on which one track has been cleared are the worst because drivers coming up behind
Can see a way through and expect the snow clearing vehicle to get out of their way instantly. Some of my fellow contractors employed a crafty method where they created a snow drift behind and in front of the genuine one to allow them to work without interruption for a while. Probably not officially allowed but very effective and much easier on the nerves. I begin to have sympathy with the road closure signs which annoy us all so much! There is an expectation that road users should be able to go wherever they want at any hour of the day or night and in any weather conditions. I suppose that swearing at a digger driver who is clearing a snow drift on the road has to be expected in this world of instant gratification.

This years snow clearance has been the best organised ever in my experience. We were put on standby 48 hours ahead of the snow and given a mobile number to ring if conditions got bad. We were not allowed out in the dark but were called at 6.30am and told which roads we were responsible for and given a priority list. At the end of each day we were contacted for a progress report and hours worked. The highways get a lot of stick over potholes, verges and road surfacing, but I cannot fault the way they dealt with the snow.

Did any of you do the RSPB garden bird watch at the end of January? We had 15 species this year with Jay, great spotted woodpecker and song thrush being the favourites. The first morning’s snow brought 11 chaffinches, presumably shifted off our field of bird seed because of the wind. Our bird feeders have been a great experience during this last year’s confinement

David Tydeman