Snow-blanketed village brings out skiers

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The Independent Online

Skiers made the most of snow which has blanketed one of England's highest villages.

Allenheads, in the North Pennine hills in Northumberland, has been buried beneath almost a foot of snow since Monday.

Since then local farmers and the Highways Agency have worked together to clear the major roads in and out of the village, but fresh snowfall today all but guaranteed a white Christmas.

The former lead mining village, which is in an officially designated Area Outstanding Natural Beauty, is at 1,450ft one of the highest altitude villages in England.

A ski slope with three lifts, powered by a pair of vintage tractors, sits at 1,770ft, above the village.

Owner of the Allenheads Inn Ann Homer said skiers had been enjoying the weather.

Ms Homer, 53, said: "They have been out on the hill since Monday. I think they can't believe their luck. The old tractors have broken down a couple of times but they soon get them running again and everybody's happy.

"The snow is coming down fairly heavily. I can see the patio table from the window and it's covered in snow 10in deep.

"Everything is completely white outside - it's very beautiful but it means we're all a bit stuck. There's absolutely no way you'd make it across the fells above the village and it's a 40- mile round trip to the nearest big supermarket so most people made sure they are well prepared for the weather before the snow fell.

"The Highways Agency came to grit the major roads but the local farmers pitch in to help too. Most of them have snow ploughs fitted to their tractors and they each take a few roads, some of the more impassable ones, and get them clear.

"Our barmaid Joanna was brought to and from work on the back of her dad's tractor yesterday because there's some places not even a four-wheel-drive would get through.

"We had a white Christmas last year and definitely will this year too.

"Then again, it snowed here in June, so it's not something we are totally unprepared for."

She said it was more cold in her pub dining room than in her kitchen fridges.

"We were preparing a buffet and when I checked the temperature in the dining room it was -8C. It was only -5C in the fridges, so we just laid everything out there instead."

In Kielder Forest, 50 miles north of Allenheads, villagers have been giving red squirrels a helping hand finding food beneath the snow.

Retired woodwork teacher Don Clegg, who lives close to the shore of Kielder Water, feed the squirrels from his hand.

He said: "The reds don't hibernate so we still see them every day. There are a few who visit my garden regularly, and I put out seeds and fruit for them, and monkey nuts which they particularly like.

"They are not as active but they cope with the snow well. We've about seven inches here and they scamper across the top then tunnel down into it to look for food. They are easier to spot with their red coats against the snow."

He spotted one red on the road north of Kielder near the Scottish border.

He said: "He was about three yards into Scotland so I shooed him back across into England."

Kielder resident Lynsey Bell, 25, said: "The snow is fairly deep and it's starting again now. But eight miles away down in the valley they've got none.

"We don't mind it. We just get on with things. It does not stop anyone getting to work. You just drive more slowly.