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Devon’s Snow Wardens on standby as they mark 10th anniversary

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With Devon’s Snow Wardens prepared to spring into action this weekend, they will also be marking the 10th anniversary of the volunteer scheme this year.

The scheme has gone from strength to strength since it was launched by Devon County Council in 2011, and around 325 towns and parishes in the county currently have snow wardens.

In the event of a prolonged cold spell, the volunteers grit their priority roads and clear snow as part of their community’s self-help plans.

Among the first snow wardens to sign up were the parishes of Dunkeswell, Rattery and Uplyme, and 10 years on, they continue to volunteer through the scheme.

Photo of Uplyme Snow Warden Andy Turner
Uplyme Snow Warden Andy Turner

Andrew Turner is one of a team of nine snow wardens in the parish of Uplyme. He said: “We been in the scheme since its inception and it’s been a big success. In those past ten years we’ve ploughed around six times, but we’ve been out dozens of times to grit when it’s icy on the roads. When we’re needed we’ve got a very good team that goes out there and get things done. It’s not just us locals working together, it’s the parish working with Devon County as well; it makes life so much easier and works very well. We realise the County Council has limited resources and can’t grit everywhere, so we can link up the minor roads to help people get onto the main roads.”

Photo of Dunkeswell Snow Warden John Barrow
Dunkeswell Snow Warden John Barrow

Dunkeswell Snow Warden John Barrow said: “The Council’s trying to help people to help themselves. I believe in helping yourself a little bit, not sitting back and waiting for someone else to do everything. This is why I think it’s a good scheme and why we joined in year one. The Beast from the East was the worst winter we’ve had since we’ve been in the scheme but there have been other odd little blips that have only lasted for a day. The benefit of having a bit of salt around can make it possible for people to keep moving.”

Rattery Snow Warden Peter Smerdon
Rattery Snow Warden Peter Smerdon

Peter Smerdon, one of the Snow Wardens in Rattery, said: “The scheme works very well. Devon County Council has helped finance the salt-spreader and keeps us supplied with salt. The winters of 2009 and 2010 made us realise if we were going to make the roads safer for residents to use, then we needed a bit of local control. The Snow Warden scheme has given that control to communities, particularly in very rural areas.”



Photo of Councillor Stuart Hughes
Councillor Stuart Hughes

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Snow Warden for Sidmouth and Sidford, said: “The Snow Warden scheme has been a great success over the past ten years, and lots of other counties across the country have sought our advice when establishing their own schemes. Towns and parishes have really taken ownership of this scheme and while they may not have been called into action every winter, it’s helped communities to be better prepared, better equipped and more resilient against severe weather.

“With 8,000 miles of roads in the county, it is impossible for Devon County Council to treat our entire network of roads and footpaths, so the Snow Warden scheme has always been an additional resource on top of the winter service we provide. It’s enabled us to support town and parish councils to provide self-help in their local communities and has basically extended our secondary salting network – making it easier for local people to reach their nearest main roads which are gritted by the County Council.”

The Snow Wardens are a key contact between their local community and the County Council. They receive free advice and training from Devon County Council on how to clear snow and spread salt effectively. The authority also covers third party public liability for the treatment undertaken as part of the snow warden scheme.

Devon County Council has 37 frontline gritters available to treat 2,000 miles of primary and secondary salting routes, covering around 25% of the county’s road network. Last winter, around 9,500 tonnes of salt were used on Devon’s roads – treating around 75,000 miles of the county. That’s below the average winter figure of around 13,000 tonnes of salt.

Find out more about the Snow Warden scheme go to our communities webpages or contact Parish Council representatives who can liaise with their local Neighbourhood Highway Officer.

Advice from Devon County Council when travelling on the county’s roads is:

• Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with less traffic and colder temperatures;

• Never assume a road has been salted. Remember that showers or rain will wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice, and in extreme cold even salting will not stop ice from forming;

• Allow additional time for your journey and reduce your speed;

• Drive with care and according to the conditions.

More information and travel advice is available from Devon County Council’s Winter Travel webpages or for updates on Twitter follow @DevonAlert