Devon’s ranks of volunteer Snow Wardens have proven to be a vital back-up to the County Council’s winter response over the weekend – just as they have over the past 10 years.
Devon’s Snow Warden scheme is marking its 10th anniversary this year. Today, around 325 towns and parishes in Devon have snow wardens in place as part of their self-help plans, should they be needed if the county suffers a prolonged spell of winter weather.
Among them is Uplyme Parish Council which has a group of nine volunteers on standby with their own tractor-mounted plough and gritting machines to keep priority routes in their parish clear. Two winters ago, they played a key role in helping an ambulance to get through their parish during extreme snowfall.
Uplyme Parish Councillor Andrew Turner, who is one of the Snow Wardens, said: “We been in the scheme since its inception and it’s been a big success. In those past 10 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.
“We’ve got about nine people in the parish signed up to the scheme and it works very well. We’re all volunteers, but we’re lucky that we’ve got our own equipment. The Parish Council bought the gritting machine and the County Council supplies the salt. 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. A lot of people don’t know we’re even out at night-times, but you can see where we’ve been in the morning which makes all the difference.
“If severe snow is predicted, Devon County Council let us know and we can get salt down on the lanes, we can get machinery ready so we’re prepared in advance whereas years ago communities weren’t prepared. When we had really heavy snow a couple winters ago, we snow ploughed the roads to help the ambulance service get to an elderly patient.
“We’ve moved forward so much over those 10 years with the help of the County Council and the Parish Council and our own volunteers, and I’m sure we will over the next 10 years. All we’re trying to do is help local people.”
Devon County Council launched the Snow Warden scheme in 2011, following two harsh winters, and the numbers of volunteer Snow Wardens has continued to grow over the years.
Snow Wardens provide a key point of contact between the local community and the County Council. The volunteers receive 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.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Snow Warden for Sidmouth and Sidford, said: “We have seen the vital support that Snow Wardens have provided during major snow events over the past ten years, and our thanks go to all of the volunteers who generously give their time to treat their local roads that our gritters can’t get to.
“The Snow Warden scheme is a great example of partnership working between Devon County Council and local towns and parishes – we provide the salt and they use their local knowledge to salt their priority routes. Local communities have really benefited from the scheme over the years – with 325 towns and parishes signed up it’s become a crucial resource during winter, in addition to the County Council’s own fleet of gritters.”
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.
To find out more about the Snow Warden scheme go to our community webpages
or contact Parish Council representatives who can liaise with their local Neighbourhood Highway Officer.
For more information and travel advice visit Devon County Council’s Winter travel webpages or for updates on Twitter follow @DevonAlert.