Even in my lifetime the amount of snow that falls in the UK has dwindled. Scotland certainly still receives significant snowfalls but even there the amount of snow is much less. Sure I can remember the occasional deep freeze and heavy snowfall in recent years but as the exception rather than the rule. It is true that age often plays tricks with memories but after taking that into account I still know that heavy snow each Winter was almost a certainty in years gone by whereas nowadays it is unlikely.
Snowfall in England
In the early part of 2009 some parts of England actually experienced the heaviest snow falls that they have seen for many years. However the disruption and snow were short lived. In 1950s Great Britain heavy snow would often freeze, receive another layer of snow and freeze yet again. This precarious surface would then play havoc with life for weeks.
Easter, March 2008, saw heavy snow in England but by this time it was Spring. What we are tending to see in England, and the UK in general, is that our seasons are moving. Fifty years ago snow rarely occurred outside of the winter period for example, let alone at Easter time. As snow tends to happen later in the year these days it is usually short lived. During winter it will last a little longer but as we experience less severe frosts these days even then snow is often a short sharp shock.
With only ten official white Christmas’s recorded since 1900 it would seem that perhaps our memories do play some tricks with us. However for an official white Christmas to be declared the place and timing are essential and strict. I do remember snow at Christmas where I live on more than one occasion but not at all since 2000.
The distant past
Great Britain did endure a mini Ice Age centuries ago. From 1550 until 1850 British winter weather was tough. Winter weather was consistently cold with heavy snow falls. The temperatures were so low that frost fairs were often held on parts of the River Thames which had frozen over.
The not so distant past.
In 1947 one of the worst snowfalls on record hit England. Many locals still own photographs which show the extent of the deep snow. Small villages were cut off for quite some time until snow ploughs could move the snow and clear the roads.
As a child I well remember my dad working on snow ploughs during winter in an attempt to help clear the roads. This would have been in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and was in a small city.
Specific areas will no doubt have experienced their own particular record breaking snow falls. Often one part of the UK can be under snow whilst another has none, even though the UK is not a large area. However it is fair to say that our worst snowfalls were during our little ice age. As weather patterns move around this could happen again but more than likely, with global warming, the opposite will occur.