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Cumbrian villages angry after gritters fail to clear roads

Residents in rural communities say they have been left stranded in the snow because gritters are used to clear less than a third of Cumbria’s roads.

December snow photo
Snow blankets Crow Park, Keswick

Around 1,200 miles of Cumbria’s 4,500 miles of roads are gritted when snowy and icy weather strikes, and several villages, farms and hamlets are being left to fend for themselves.

Council chiefs say they need to prioritise roads based on usage, but also that people moving to rural Cumbria know what they are letting themselves in for.

Farmer Ann Holmes, who lives in Roadhead north of Brampton, faces a three-mile trudge through eight inches of snow to get to a section of clear road – and even that road is littered with abandoned cars including her husband’s lorry full of livestock.

She said: “Everybody is stranded. Farmers are having to pour milk down the drains as lorries can’t get to them, and we can’t get any provisions.

“My husband is stuck with a lorry full of livestock, and we can’t feed the livestock we have here because we can’t get anything in. I am having to ration food because we can’t even get the basics like bread and potatoes.

“When we complained to the council, they told me we shouldn’t have moved in here if we weren’t going to be able to get out.”

A Cumbria Highways spokesman said: “In extreme circumstances if very isolated rural communities are cut off for long periods of time we’d look to help them by clearing snow, although if people choose to live in areas like this they need to realise they might face difficulties in winter.

“Cumbria Highways is responsible for managing and maintaining more than 4,500 miles of road so gritting and ploughing every single part of the network when the cold weather bites is simply not feasible.”

Other areas suffering a lack of gritting include Hesket Newmarket, Great Orton and Mungrisdale.

George Brown, landlord of The Wellington Inn in Great Orton, said: “Everybody’s complaining – the main road from Dalston hasn’t been touched.

“You can get in and out but you have to drive very slowly. It’s dangerous.”

Mungrisdale, several miles from the A66 and the nearest gritted road, is a popular destination for people retiring to the Lake District, and people in the village are having difficulties with access.

Helen McAleese, landlady of the Mill Inn in the village, said: “There’s nothing gritted here at all. I had to travel 23 miles to get here this morning, but I only live seven miles away.”

People concerned about the gritting provision on a road can nominate it to be added to the list of roads covered. This year four roads were added to the routes covered, however, an overspend from February’s heavy snows meant that part of this year’s gritting budget was spent early.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the county, police confirmed that the A66 at Stainmore was closed this morning because of the volume of snow.

Temperatures in parts of Cumbria fell to -8C overnight.

The Met Office in London said that between 5cm and 10cm of snow fell overnight on the fells but the weather system that brought it has now moved south towards Lancashire.

Today should be dry, with temperatures two or three degrees above freezing by this afternoon. There are likely to be outbreaks of sleet and snow on Christmas Eve with conditions becoming more cloudy on Christmas Day.

Have your say

Ray, farmers already do clear their roads, they have tractors to do that, they are a canny bunch of people, they very seldom lose money, they would only put it down the drain if it was commercially worth them doing so.

Posted by anon on 11 January 2010 at 14:58

no sooner do i predict problems with shortages of agricultural foods, this report from sky news posted on yahoo news comes in.

prices rise as crops freeze:

Posted by ray on 10 January 2010 at 20:52

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