I remember two winters in particular during my 12 years at West Buckland when we had severe blizzards with seriously deep drifted snow. The second of the two was undoubtedly 1978.
In both cases for all practical purposes the school was completely cut off from the outside world.
Derek Holt, then Deputy Head, skied in from Elwell in a straight line, over the tops of all the hedges; and in the earlier of the two years Robin Hales, then Head of Music, opened his back door to find drifted snow to at least the full height of the door.
Day boys, could not of course get in to us; but we still had to look after and cater for the boarders, and that entailed bringing supplies in. As soon as the main road (A361) had been cleared by the Council we established a supply drop at Filleigh, and the entire third form equipped with full expedition gear then hiked down there with rucksacs to bring the supplies in. Meanwhile all the seniors, and most of the staff turned our hands to snow clearance of the local roads, working in mutual assistance with local farmers equipped with tractors. One wonders what today’s Health & Safety brigade would make of engaging pupils in such activities.
Simultaneously we also had to contend with power cuts. The sheer weight of snow on the cables brought some of them down, and with no reserve capacity we were without power for seriously extended periods; such light and heat as we had available in the school was provided by candles and portable paraffin heaters.
Oliver L. Shaw
Head of Physics, 1971-82