Brian Shorrock
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Winters in the past were much harsher than nowadays and in some years considerably more so. Whether this is due to so-called global warming I do not know. Certainly in the last 20 years, snowfall on Malham Moor for example - whilst still occurring annually - has not in recent years blocked the roads for more than a day or so. In the past farms would be cut off for two and three weeks every winter. In the 1946/47 winter when I resided at Hellifield and was just a schoolboy, an enormous amount of snow fell, with severe frosts, and worst of all, there were strong easterly winds which piled up huge snowdrifts.

Villages were cut off for weeks, with roads and railways blocked. Father, being an engine driver, spent weeks with dozens of other men trying to clear the snow at Dent station. Such was the weight of snow that engines were buried and derailed - as fast as the snow was cleared, the wind blew it back again. This went on for weeks and around Hellifield the overall depth of snow was four to five feet. We could go sledging over fields with an uninterrupted ride as the stone walls were no longer visible, and the top layer of snow had frozen rock-hard so there was no risk of vanishing into a deep drift. Rather oddly, I cannot remember it snowing on more than two occasions but it obviously did. The conditions were pretty hard, I suppose, for my parents and other families but we children were too busy enjoying ourselves to worry about that. In 1962/63, when I was an electrican, the winter was bitterly cold and more notable for severe and prolonged frosts than the amount of snow. We spent quite a lot of time thawing out water pipes by attaching electrodes to the pipes and passing an electric current through them. The frost had penetrated down into the ground at least four feet. This scheme was pretty successful, but no hope of being successful today with most pipes now being plastic, so another 1962/63 type winter might bring the water flow both in and out of buildings to a complete halt.

When I was a postman, Malham Moor was best avoided during the winter months. Conditions were dreadful and I used to estimate that if it started to snow accompanied by a strong wind, 45 minutes were all you had to get off the moor before you became blocked in. I had a few narrow squeaks driving a van when you could hardly see a hand in front of you - a complete whiteout with no road, no sky and no roadside walls - just a white mass of whirling snowflakes - all very scary. Just before I joined the Post Office Allan Hartley, a workmate, had to abandon a van near Capon Hall on Malham Moor and walk out to safety. His van lay buried for three weeks before it could be retrieved, but astonishingly it started first time and was driven undamaged back to Settle. Chains were used on the post vans. They were good at times, but invariably broke, causing a link to bang against the van wheel arches which was very noisy and irritating. Eventually town and country tyres were fitted and with some heavy stones put in the back of the van you could drive nearly anywhere, providing the depth of snow was not too great.