2010 arrived at midnight on a cold and frosty night and the same sub-zero temperatures continued for the first couple of weeks. On 6th January we awoke to some 7 inches (17cm) of snow with overnight temperatures of 14°F (-10°C) and a radio report of -15°C at Benson in Oxfordshire. In Arnold Lamb’s Village Nature notes in the village magazine – the Sibford Scene – he commented that
Scientists tell us that the Arctic ice is melting away far more quickly than predicted a few years ago but this cold spell is making people doubt that the world is warming at all. It could be that scientists are still underestimating the speed of change and we are already starting to feel the predicted cooling of Britain due to the weakening of the Gulf Stream caused by the huge increase in fresh water entering the Arctic Ocean from the melting icecap and the glaciers of northern Russia.
A chilling thought.
The snow and icy conditions caused chaos in the village. The village schools were both closed for several days, the WI meeting and Friendship Club meetings were both cancelled. Lunch for the elderly folk who attend the Fielding Day Centre was cancelled on two consecutive weeks following a further snowfall on Wednesday 13th January. The lack of gritting in Sibford Gower meant that buses could not get down Pound Lane and into Acre Ditch and this was drawn to the attention of the County Council who felt that gritting in Hawkes Lane alone would allow access to the village from the B4035! However, the village Surgery remained open and community support for the elderly and those needing help with shopping and prescriptions was soon in full swing. Ramesh, the new proprietor of Sibford Stores and Post Office was treated to a true Sibfordian winter. Owners of 4x4 vehicles, once shunned due to their high fuel consumption and elevated Road Fund Licences, were welcomed and had the local roads to themselves while ordinary car owners considered digging out their cars and negotiating icy drives after several days of inactivity.
Nationally, supplies of salt and grit were running low in some areas and our preparedness to cope in snow and ice was again the main topic of conversation while some experienced mild doses of ‘cabin fever’ depending on whether or not we were prepared to risk limbs on the icy surfaces. The lowest temperature recorded during the cold spell was -8°F (-22.3°C) in Scotland. By the middle of the month although temperatures remained around freezing point rain fell and the forecast was for slightly milder weather. However, by the close of January small amounts of fallen snow were still evident in Swalcliffe cutting so we may not have seen the last of the snow for this winter – we shall have to wait and see.
I imagine that many photographs were taken of the villages sparkling in the sunshine under their crystalline blanket of snow and many snowmen watched over us during the cold nights but it was surprising to see an emerging polar bear and a resplendent smiling Buddha sculptured in snow in the field known as The+Piece in Sibford Ferris. The village’s steep hills provided hours of sledging and tobogganing fun for children, youngsters and adults brave enough to try the icy pistes although there were reported visits to the surgery to check on minor injuries!
During the month a service for Christian Unity was held in the Methodist Chapel when Methodists, Quakers and Anglicans joined together for worship. The many victims of the Haiti earthquake disaster whose massive needs were brought nightly to our television screens were remembered in prayers. Both the Gower and Ferris Parish Councils met during January and it was reported that the planning application submitted by the owners of the Bishop Blaize pub for the “Change of use from a closed public house to residential use” had been withdrawn just prior to the District Council Planning meeting. The PTA held a fundraising Jumble Sale at the Primary School, the Village Hall committee organised a Family Quiz and a musical evening featuring a group of talented musical entertainers called Cosmic Sausages. 1st The Sibfords Cubs and Beavers organised a family walk of about 2 miles along the local footpaths to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Sibford School set up a monthly community reading group to encourage lively discussion and will host the first meeting in February. A charge of £3 will be made per session to cover refreshments with any profit going to the Nchima Trust which supports health and education projects in Malawi. The Sibfords Society held its annual Social Evening in the Village Hall when pupils from Sibford School provided a musical entertainment after the Bring and Share supper. A spontaneous collection, in lieu of a donation to the music department, raised £165 for the Haiti Earthquake appeal.
All the organisations and groups who meet or worship in the village received a Domesday 2010 proforma to survey the nature and membership of the many varied activities which take place in the Sibfords. The steering group met to discuss the preparation of the Householder survey which will be circulated to every household and outlying farm in the parishes of Sibford Ferris and Sibford Gower and Burdrop later in the year.
By the close of the month early flowering snowdrops were beginning to nod their exquisite heads in sheltered places.