With the earliest winter snowfall for seventeen years, it was only a matter of time before the Northants 4x4 Response Team was called in to action. I've been a volunteer responder for quite a while now, but this was the first time I was called-out: to assist the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire team in Lincoln.
Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures had left many roads in a treacherous condition, especially in rural areas where they were all but impassable without four-wheel drive. Responders from groups all over the country went to help out, especially those from areas less affected by the wintery weather such as Northants.
The call came on Sunday morning, so after a quick check that everything was in order in the Freelander I set off up the A1 to Lincoln hospital which was the operations centre for the area. The further north I went, the more snow there was in fields - despite a brief thaw over the weekend (which brought rain, which fell on icy roads making them even more icy than before). Arriving at the hospital I found the controller, who had come from Norfolk, and I was duly dispatched to the nearby village of Nettleham to collect a Sue Ryder nurse and take her to do her evening house-calls.
Roads in the village were icy but passable with care, although some houses with long driveways were a bit more of a challenge as were those in hillier areas. Finding houses in the dark, in snow and ice wasn't always easy, but with the aid of my big torch we could light-up the house numbers without having to brave the cold outside the car. We made a dozen or more visits before I dropped off the nurse at her home.
During the visits I waited in the car, listening to the radio and wishing I'd thought to bring something to read. I'd stopped at a couple of petrol stations on the way up in the hope of finding a Land Rover or motorbike magazine, but I can only assume other responders had got there first because the selection was very poor. In one petrol station the magazine section consisted of only a top-shelf, which while it would have helped to pass the time, didn't seem all that appropriate!
By 21.30 I was finished and stopped for some hot food before meeting up with the rest of the Northants team at a nearby hotel. Two of us were heading home while the other two were staying overnight to assist on Monday. The A1 is very quiet around midnight on a freezing cold Sunday night, and after a non-stop journey I arrived home in the early hours of Monday; exceedingly tired but pleased to have been able to help out.
Some of the RT's calls are exciting and adventurous, but many are far more mundane. Either way, they're just as important and without our assistance a lot of elderly and vulnerable people would not have received their visits and been left cold and lonely.