Bristol's transformation into a spring wonderland



Online Features Editor Ollie Smith describes the impact of the storm which turned Bristol into a snowy paradise

It was something I expected never to see in my time at Bristol. Indeed I had even questioned whether I would see it again. As a southerner who grew up in the ‘sunniest town in Britain’, Bognor Regis, West Sussex the very concept of snow was beginning to become alien to me. Of course there have been flurries: the day before my 24 hour exam, for example, being a torturous experience as I gazed out of my window in jealousy of those not in deep revision.

Then came the ‘beast from the east’, the cold winds of Siberia which gripped our nation for the best part of a week. Like the weird weather world of Game of Thrones the season would be unpredictable. Red weather warnings were issued in Scotland and the South East, scraping the tip of Wales and covering most of Devon. Combined with the might of Storm Emma the UK has endured one of its most wintery springs ever.
I have never been that cold in my life. The winds were strong and powder snow blew along the ground like a scene from an Attenborough documentary in the Antarctic. Facing the blizzard stung my eyes and I found myself wearing socks and layers in bed to keep warm.

in some parts of Clifton I felt as though I had stepped back in time

Thursday brought a downfall of snow; it had been non-stop all day and by the evening there was so much that for the first time in my life I made a snow angel. I came back to my student flat to find a snow slide where the steps once were and a front door that was fast on its way to being half covered.

Epigram/Ollie Smith

There was a certain magic about the morning of Friday: in some parts of Clifton I felt as though I had stepped back in time; I couldn’t see where the road began and the pavements ended. It looked a little like the streets from the era of Sherlock Holmes; I half expected to see horse-drawn carriages and cloaks. I took a walk to the suspension bridge to see the picturesque views. Children were sledging down the natural slide, couples were on romantic walks and a robin I encountered was clearly very confused before kindly posing for a wintery picture. I carried on along the Downs Trail and through the trees, snow was coming down heavily at this point and with the old lampposts and snowbound woodland I could have been in Narnia.

There was major disruption for Epigram too

Ironically the snow caused more disruption than the recent strikes. The university reached a standstill with everything closing at 2pm on Thursday. It was at this time my last lecture finished and as we left we were greeted to a full scale evacuation of the Arts and Social Sciences Library. I must admit that when the university first announced it would be closing I was a little surprised; someone even made the joke that this is why we are sometimes dubbed ‘the snowflake generation’.

In all seriousness, however, it was a sensible decision. A red weather warning is, after all, extreme weather that poses a serious risk to life and whilst Bristol just avoided the worst it wasn’t without risk. People have died across the country and the army had to be called in to support the strained police and hospitals. I had friends informing me of people they knew getting injured by slipping on ice, a reminder that what is fun for some can bring real struggle to others.

I found the shelves of the local supermarket bare. There was no bread, very little meat and almost no vegetables. There was a certain level of irony in that daffodils were being sold to mark the coming of the sun. Spring Equinox this year will fall on 20th March, which for a while seemed a very long time away.

There was major disruption for Epigram too; with our offices being in the SU the building was closed on Friday and for a while we weren’t even sure if we’d be able to lay up this edition, although thankfully we continue to report. I myself had been scheduled to interview Bristol North West MP Darren Jones on the Saturday, but like many commuters across the country he was stranded in London. Thankfully we did it over the phone and I’ll be bringing you the results very soon.

There were some fun snow stories of course: the rescued snow ferret Doris being a great example or the giant snowball fight on Clifton Down. I saw much activity on social media regarding the homeless where people were informing of helplines to call if you saw someone sleeping rough and there were even reports of people leaving warm clothing out for them.

And just like that it was gone. The bitter winds died down, light flurries became light showers, and snow turned to slush. My winter coat has returned to the cupboard for the rest of the year (I hope), my boots are still drying by the radiator and I am very much looking forward to the warm rays of spring.

Featured image: Epigram/Ollie Smith

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Ollie Smith

Features Editor 2018-19 I Online Features Editor 2017-18 I Host and Founder of The Epigram Show on Wednesdays at 10am on BURST Radio