Throwback Thursday: Do you remember when the River Waveney froze in 1991?

PUBLISHED: 09:01 07 June 2018

Tony Clarke's article covering the harsh Waveney winter of 1991. Photo: Archant.

Tony Clarke's article covering the harsh Waveney winter of 1991. Photo: Archant.


In Throwback Thursday Enjoy Beccles more takes a look back at some of the town’s major stories and events from times gone-by.

This week we look back at the harsh winter of 1991 when temperatures plummeted so low the River Waveney froze at Beccles.

Much like when the Beast from the East struck recently the community spirit of the town shone through with the town coming together to help each other out.

The article below first appeared in the Beccles and Bungay Journal on Friday, February 15.

Winter grips the Waveney Valley by Tony Clarke

Winter imposed its icy grip on the Waveney Valley this week.

When the long threatened snow finally arrived last Thursday, it did not take long to have an effect on people’s daily lives.

Water pipes froze, cars proved difficult to start or broke down, pedestrians tottered about on icy pavements, shops and businesses closed early.

With county council snowploughs and gritting lorries concentrating on main routes, residential roads were difficult to negotiate and county roads quickly became impassable.

The River Waveney froze at Beccles for the first time for four years.

But, as ever, the bad weather brought out the best in many good Samaritans as they kept an eye on elderly neighbours or left food out for embattled wildlife.

And with many schools in the area closed there was plenty of time for the younger generation to get its sledges out and head for those open spaces.

In such snowy setting as the commons at Beccles and Bungay, and St Mary’s Paddock at Beccles, many youngsters – and not a few parents – took an opportunity to sample the thrills and spills if extremely mini Cresta Run.

A few of the sledgers came to grief and needed treatment in the casualty department at Beccles hospital, but the rest happily hurtled on wishing, just this once, that they inhabited an area endowed with more spectacular hills.

Such a wish could not have been further from the minds of motorists and pedestrians, especially elderly people.

One of the first vehicles to be prudently kept off the road on Friday was the new Beccles welfare vehicle, recently delivered at a cost of £22,000.

But at the Waveney Centre, the town’s day social centre for the elderly, organiser Mrs Mireen Pickard said some members were finding their way to the centre despite the weather.

“We are the warmest place in Beccles today,” she said.

At Beech House residential home in Halesworth, day visitors were unable to make it in.

Acting officer-in-charge Mrs Edna Clark had to make sure the housebound in the area were visited and given a hot meal.

At Beccles Mr Roy Leeks said that the Clasp good neighbour scheme still maintained a list of people prepared to help their elderly and disabled neighbours with small tasks and errands.

Police in the Halesworth, Bungay and Beccles are reported that, although the highways authority was making strenuous efforts to keep the A roads open, the country roads were “appalling”.

The cold weather had also caused a spate of vehicle break-downs, including a double decker bus which blocked narrow Northgate in Beccles on Friday morning causing traffic diversions.

At the Dell, Suffolk County Council’s home for the elderly at Beccles, deputy officer in charge Mrs Georgina brown reported on Sunday: “Some staff from the country haven’t been able to get in and the girls in Beccles have been marvellous and kept the show going.”

The Dell’s day centre was closed on Friday and volunteers took meals out to elderly people who they thought wouldn’t have anybody else to help out.

“We have also had a volunteer come in out of the blue,” said Mrs Brown. “We are alright at the moment and just hoping it doesn’t snow anymore. It is lovely and warm up here.”

The Waveney branch of Cats protection League received several calls from people leaving food out for colonies of semi-wild cats.

“The food freezes so quickly,” said Mrs Pam Tabelin, of Redisham. “The cats also tend to go to ground and people start wondering if they are dead or just hiding up.”

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