Arriving in Totnes on Thursday, March 1, with a disrupted train journey, we could not find a taxi and the car park was deep in unblemished snow.
It was snowing heavily and a gale was blowing. It was good job we had taken skiing clothes!
The traffic on the main road was gridlocked and we did not see any movement for the next half hour as we dragged our cases into town to look for alternative transport.
There was none, so we gave up and went to the Seven Stars and asked for a room. It was full, but they kindly rang round every bed and breakfast and pub in town to look for rooms. No joy.
Luckily, we had some friends who live up by the castle at the top of town.
A very surprised Dr Green came to the door. A refugee plea, an explanation and a bed was offered. Their drive was 12ins deep in snow and it did not clear for four days.
Very kindly, Jenny and Jeremy shared their supper with their unexpected guests and we, exhausted, watched the evening news with amazement.
After a rather restless night, waking frequently to puzzle out just how we were going to get home, I decided that the utmost priority was to go out to their local store and replenish our host’s stores.
After receiving a call from Giles Shaw, our tree surgeon friend, who had a 4x4 and said the main road was passable, we went back down the hill.
There was no traffic at all-only lots of children enjoying sledging on the empty streets, but none prepared to support our luggage.
After that, the trip back to Stoke Gabriel was only 30 minutes, although the road only had one clear lane, and negotiating who would give way was rather interesting. There were vast numbers of abandoned vehicles all the way home, even one tempting abandoned Sainsbury’s home delivery van covered by a drift.
One aspect of our experience was particularly noticeable and that was just how helpful people were.
The hotel had told us that if we were stuck we could doss down in their ballroom, and later on I heard that other venues had done the same.
But the most remarkable thing was how complete strangers all stopped to chat, some almost giving their life stories.
Normally one only chats in Totnes if the other person comes from Stoke Gabriel too.
John Bradbury CBE
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