Alston staff vs the Beast from The East!

The Beast from the East hit Barhaugh Hall on a Tuesday, after a beautifully clear but crisp start to the week’s courses. As a blanket of snow fell rapidly over the activity areas, the SCLs kept the Party Leaders updated on road conditions and the latest forecasts. One school took the decision to leave a day early, which proved to be a good idea! On Wednesday the battle against the elements was well and truly on, and our focus moved to getting schools out safely and promptly.

A number of coach companies decided they would not be able to come out to the coach park on the A689 to pick up the children because of the conditions, creating concern for the teaching staff and a mammoth task for Gemma, the Duty Manager, who managed to find replacement transport for all of the schools.

Closer to home another battle was slowly being won, de-icing the small one lane road that we walk the children out on. If you’ve ever been to Barhaugh Hall you will know that some sections of this road are very steep, these had become ice rinks, and other parts sit right above the steep bank down to the South Tyne river, so it was essential to make them safe and clear for pedestrians and centre traffic. Needless to say, all of the guests were taken safely to the coach park and got out of the valley and back to their home towns.

It’s not often that we get a day off for snow, so the staff team set to making the most of it. A plan was hatched to meet up and head up onto Mount Hooley first thing in the morning for some snowy hijinks. A very large group of us met up at the Market Cross with sledges, skis, snowboards, tea trays, survival bags, and anything else you can put between your bottom and the snow and go weeeee with. The snow was still coming down thick and fast and the usual five minute walk down the Butts and along the river Nent was quite a trudge. The snow was almost a foot high in most places, and far more where it had collected or drifted. We set up a base half way up the hill, built some jumps and got stuck in with what we do best: falling off things at high speeds.

It was about this time that former Robinwooder and local firefighter Kelly Drury got in touch asking if anyone could help to clear a path for the community ambulance which was snowed in at the cottage hospital. Within an hour, a force of almost twenty RW staff and a handful of local heroes were down at the hospital digging out the ambulance and clearing the long driveway down to the main road. Since all five roads into town were impassable by this point, the community ambulance was likely the only medical assistance that could serve the town.

A number of passers-by and hospital staff mentioned what a good job we had done, and the Robinwood staff soon got quite a name for themselves as snow-warriors.

At this stage snow had drifted up against some houses in Nenthead well above the doors and windows and some smaller roads were filled in between dry stone walls altogether.

As the snow came to a stop, the R.A.F. sent in a Chinook helicopter with supplies to Alston, and a Hercules aircraft delivered further assistance to Allendale over the hill. This is about as exciting as it gets in our little corner of the Pennines!

We all know that Robinwood staff always do well in a crisis, but it should also be pointed out that as well as digging people out of snow, delivering food parcels and freeing up ambulances, we also managed to build the world’s best igloo on the playing field (and spend the night in it)!

It has been fantastic to be approached by so many local people who had nothing but praise for the determination, selflessness and high spirits of Robinwood staff who came out to help during the Snow-pocalypse. Alston is a community that relies on relationships and good will, and when Robinwood first arrived here many years ago, some people were a little unsure what to make of it. During this week we really showed the townsfolk what we can do and it has felt almost like never before that the centre is now a pillar of Alston Moor’s community and family. It was great to see staff meeting locals and learning names and starting relationships, this is one of the many magical things about living in this amazing town. A huge thank you to all those who gave up their days off and helped to keep our neighbours safe and comfortable during the Beast!