In 1982 a farmer fairly new to the parish wrote in the Newsletter ‘Is there ever a year in the farmer’s diary, I wonder’ that doesn’t involve superlatives? In the seven years since we moved to our small farm at Crick we’ve experienced ‘the driest summer ‘ anyone can remember, ‘the wettest spring’ (two of these!), ‘the finest autumn’, ‘the least sunny summer ‘ (not to be confused with the wettest), ‘the coldest spring, ‘the warmest spring’ and ‘the worst winter’. And now as I write a wet drizzling mist blows across the fields and we start the 90th day of rain since June 1st – well on the way to gaining a record of ‘wettest six months’ anyone can recall.
Did these superlative seasons only start seven years ago? Or is it us? Certainly in London we noticed the weather and decided to wear a raincoat or not, but really had no idea the seasons were carrying on in this outrageous manner…’ Well in Penallt they do!
In 1607 ‘…there was great flooding…’
Hester Probert writing in February 1719 ‘…Mr Probert could not go to Bristoll so soon as he intended ye weather being so boisterous yt many went in danger of yr lives; and ye things he bought ye boat ya were in was stuck in ye sands about a week yet I had yn not till last week; no damage only fresh oysters forced to be flung away and some oranges rotted…’
She writes in August 1720 ‘…We have had abundance of wett this week last night I hear it hail and rain very hard and it is to be feared has spoyled abundance of corne; wn ya got to reaping in many places was sent home again by the badness of the weather…’
In 1838 ‘a bitter winter’ was recorded and some agricultural workers from the area emigrated.
In 1916 the school log book records very heavy snowfalls, almost daily from 24th February to 31st March, and the school was closed for most of this period. In the winter of 1917 the snow was so deep ‘Wilfred Pick rode over the hedgerows on horseback’. In 1947 3ft of snow fell in two nights.
In the winter of 1962/3, starting on Boxing Day, the snow lasted until nearly May. Services were given up at the Parish Church, and the Christmas flowers and holly froze into solid blocks of ice in their pots. At the Generals, Arthur du Heaume had to cut paths through the snow for his poultry and to manhandle provisions and coal by sledge up from the Boat. When the Lloyds attempted to find ‘Barberry’, the purchase of which they had commenced in 1962, it was to discover the lane down completely unused; they finally reached the cottage at the end of April to find it quietly waiting in the snow. Lone Lane was frozen and full of snow for many weeks. One story tells of an ice cream van driver, who in gratitude to a farmer who towed him out of the snow, presented him with a box of ice cream from the van. ‘Pity it wasn’t a brewery van…!’
In 1976 Commander F Collett, a parishioner and distinguished committee member of the Royal Horticultural Society, wrote in the Parish Newsletter of the drought, with some helpful gardening hints, though he was rather despairing as to whether we could save our vegetable crops ..it was really the second year of the drought and the water restrictions had us all siphoning out bath water etc. However ‘…if you water the soil round a shrub and cover it immediately with a polythene bag, on to which you put a layer of soil to weigh it down, shallow rooting shrubs like rhododendrons and hydrangeas, and any plants showing signs of distress, are likely to respond and will have a good chance of recovery. Trees which are deeper rooting can be helped by digging a hole large and deep enough to take a ten inch flowerpot or crock, or a 2 inch tile drain. Fill this pot with waste water as often as you can … but we shall not know the full extent of our losses until new growth starts in the spring!’
At the end of the drought year there was another hard winter. Mrs Golder tells of her son having to remove over 100 buckets of snow from inside the roof, where it had been blown by the easterly blizzards.
We missed the terrific hurricane of 1987 and the devastating loss of trees in the south-east of Britain; however in 1981 two feet of heavy wet snow at the end of April lost us hundreds of trees in the parish Forestry Commission plantations, many being pushed over domino-wise by heavily laden trees collapsing higher up the hill. The Trothy flooded in 1982, the bridge parapets collapsed and Mrs Gustavus-Jones, crossing by car, was tragically swept into the waters and drowned.
An article in the Newsletter described the winter of 1982: we survivors of the winter’s rage are now taking stock of our de-shrubbed gardens and damp-stained houses and the challenge of the Christmas holiday weather is gradually fading, in the hope that we’ll now get through the rest of the winter without a recurrence – particularly of the bursts!
In the meantime, can one who benefitted say how much all the friendly help and neighbourliness was appreciated? Even the birds enjoyed, I’m sure, the odd diets they received, ranging from All Bran to mince pies! Jack ‘the Milk’ must be thanked for keeping going and all who helped him, including especially Godfrey Pudge and Hamish who provided transport and company – in between carrying out a Herculean rescue of the pony who had ‘broken into’ the deep end of the Argoed Farm swimming pool! Another hero of the weather struggled more than two and a half miles on foot each day to carry a meal to an invalid parishioner. One elderly lady arrived at church seated on the milk churns on a neighbouring farmer’s tractor, the clatter reminding her of the music ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’.
A group of forty American students who were marooned at Caer Llan set to and dug out neighbouring sheep and roads. The loveliest tale of the weather, though, was of the couple whose wedding was due at the inaccessible Old Church on the first Saturday of the ‘big freeze’. They and our intrepid Vicar and necessary witnesses fought their way through two and half miles of snow by Range rover and on foot, sensibly attired in ski clothes, to have a quiet memorable marriage ceremony in the old – and very cold- Parish Church.
In 1984 our farmer wrote again in the Newsletter on the weather: ‘It rained tonight. An event as rare on Penallt this summer as harmony between populace and politicians. England’s (and Wales’) green and pleasant land has donned an earth-brown cloak. Abundant crops of sweet-smelling hay, so gleefully harvested during the hot days of June are re-appearing in racks for ravenous ‘reaking’ cattle and sheep. The use of hose-pipes to bring relief to parched gardens is forbidden and we are warned of £500 fines. Old folk with watering cans weighing down their tired limbs spend long hours maintaining their gardener’s pride; this echoing days thirty years ago when the carrying of water by yoke and bucket was a daily chore. Wells and springs abound our hill-top. From the Redwern, the Craig, Common Farm and Penygarn, Lone Lane, the Narth and Cleddon through to Hygga, Pant Glas and down to Cwmcarvan they rise, sending waters tumbling down to dangerously depleted rivers…’ He felt we should have harnessed and piped this precious resource as they do in Crete. During the summer of 1988 there was certainly no need for that, and last December and January were the mildest for many years with frog-spawn seen on Christmas Day!
[from: Penallt – A Village Miscellany]