Family trek hours home in freezing cold after car gets stuck in 10-inch snow

Travellers faced “absolute chaos” as 10 inches of snowfall left families stranded in freezing conditions as cars got stuck and blocked roads.

Cumbria bore the brunt of the ice and snow that wreaked havoc over the weekend, with Lake District authorities declaring a “major incident” and some travellers abandoning their vehicles, seeking shelter in nearby hotels and community centres.

Hannah Smith, 35, and her family spent nine hours on Saturday trying to make the 17-mile journey from the Cumbrian town of Grasmere to their home in Kendal.

After their car got stuck in the snow, Ms Smith opted to abandon it and walk “several hours” in the cold and dark with her husband and two eight-year-old children to Windermere, where they were then able to catch a train to safety.

She praised her “absolutely amazing” children for getting through “very challenging conditions”, telling i they had seen “miles and miles of abandoned cars” as others also gave up on their journeys.

Ms Smith still did not expect to retrieve her car for several days after trying and failing to retrieve the vehicle on Sunday.

South Lakes Police confirmed on Sunday morning that “snow, ice and abandoned vehicles” were preventing any movement of traffic in some areas.

Emma Williams, a master’s student at the University of Cumbria, was working at her part-time job in Windermere when the snow got too heavy to drive home, leaving her with a five-mile walk home to Ambleside with a friend.

“Luckily I had thrown my winter boots in the car the day before,” she said. “There were lots of people walking so I think they were in a similar boat.”

A snowplough clears a road in the village of Keele, Staffordshire (Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters)
A snowplough clears a road in the village of Keele, Staffordshire (Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters)

After 17 years of owning a hotel in Windermere, Cumbria, Caroline Kaye, 58, said she does not remember it “ever being this bad”.

“It was absolute chaos,” she said. “It was so difficult to move in the area, with abandoned cars blocking everything.

“A snowplough came down the road and couldn’t get through because of all the empty cars. This was an A road we are talking about.

“There were cars parked on either side of the road, cars sliding around and slowing, pedestrians walking in the middle of the road, wanting to play in the snow.”

Ms Kaye said an ambulance was called out into Windermere after a pedestrian slipped on a patch of ice.

On Saturday morning, within just a few hours, the road outside her hotel, Cedar Manor, was covered with several inches of snow, she said.

“We got an influx of abandoned car drivers last night. We sold out all of our rooms.

“We had to turn a lot of people away in the end. Some hotels weren’t even picking up their phones.”

Ms Kaye spoke told i that some of her guests complained that 10-minute journeys were taking up to four hours.

Meanwhile, a 33-year-old outdoor mental health instructor, Harrison Ward, left his home in Ambleside on Saturday to visit Ambleside Parish Centre, after hearing local community hubs were staying open to provide shelter for stranded travellers.

“The community really came together,” he said. “There were about 100 people in the centre with volunteers handing out bedding, food and tea.

By Sunday morning, snow had begun to melt in Ambleside, according to Mr Ward, but around 2,500 people in the area woke up with no power.

The Met Office issued a number of yellow weather warnings across the UK, into Monday afternoon (photo: provided)
10-minute journeys were taking up to four hours (Photo: Supplied)

Snow and ice also caused a stream of flight cancellations for those hopeful of a winter getaway.

Natalie was taking her two children, 11 and 15, on a surprise trip to Lapland when Glasgow Airport cancelled all flights over “heavier than forecast snow”. They had already gone through security and were waiting to board the plane.

Natalie and her husband booked the trip to Lapland in January as a surprise for the kids. “My kids were utterly gutted. We were all so flat yesterday after it and still are today,” says Natalie, who is from Cambuslang near Glasgow.

Travel operator TUI offered them a refund or to rebook for another time – but the festive Lapland trips often sell out months in advance.

Natalie said: “We are desperate to go this year… I personally was trying capture the final year of magic with my daughter, who is 11.

“She most likely won’t believe next year so I just feel like we’ve missed out on our final year of magic with her.”