Oxfordshire gritters praised after busy winter battling snow

A gritter lorry ploughing snow in Deddington in March. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council
A gritter lorry ploughing snow in Deddington in March. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Gritter drivers have been praised for their hard work after keeping Oxfordshire's roads as clear as possible during one of the worst winters in recent memory.

The county saw multiple bouts of snow and freezing temperatures from November to March meaning the gritting lorries were very busy, travelling nearly four times around the world from the Deddington base.

Snow cleared near Chadlington during early March when snow drifted from fields in many parts of West Oxfordshire. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Snow cleared near Chadlington during early March when snow drifted from fields in many parts of West Oxfordshire. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Paul Wilson, the man who oversees Oxfordshire County Council's gritting operation, said: “It was certainly a winter with a far different character than most of those we’ve had this decade.

“In total the council sent the gritters out on 76 occasions from November onwards. That compares to 45 in 2016/17.

"The council also had to put the snowploughs on to the gritters four times – something that had not been needed in Oxfordshire since 2012/13.

"A total of over 16,000 tonnes of rock salt were used and over 90,000 miles covered by Oxfordshire’s gritters from November to March which equates to 3.7 times around the world."

Gritters lined up at Oxfordshire County Councils depot in Deddington. Photo courtesy of the council

Gritters lined up at Oxfordshire County Councils depot in Deddington. Photo courtesy of the council

November was a cold month with the gritters having to go out on numerous occasions and the second weekend of December brought a large blanket of snow for much of Oxfordshire.

Paul said: “We’d set up ready the day before and sent the gritters out with the snowploughs attached and managed to get all the main roads clear – but that was quite some snow event for Oxfordshire and there were some particularly low temperatures in the nights following that meant the snow hung around for a while.

More cold weather between Christmas and New Year meant some unsociable hours worked by the drivers, before further busy times during potentially icy conditions in January and February.

In March, a combination of Storm Emma from the west and 'the beast from the east' brought some dramatic weather with West Oxfordshire particularly hit by a lot of snow.

Paul said: “A real notable feature in the west was snow drifting off fields on to the roads due to the winds – a lot of hard work went in to clearing the roads over that weekend and we had some absolutely fantastic support from the local farming community who really rolled their sleeves up and pitched in.

“Then we had another less intrusive brush with snow in mid-March.

"All in all it was a winter for cold and snow and winds from the north and east rather than rain and flooding and incessant weather systems from the Atlantic. That means it was quite an unusual winter.

“I’d like to thank all the team involved in the winter operation but particularly the gritter drivers who as ever were out on the roads at some very unsociable hours and in inhospitable conditions.

"They did the job in terms of keeping main roads passable."

The county council’s gritters cover 1,200 miles of road on one gritting run – covering all A-roads, B-roads and some C-roads. Highways England cover the A34, A43 and M40.

Paul added: "There are always people who imagine that gritting means winter conditions are completely eliminated – but the vast majority of people know that gritting and ploughing helps, but it doesn’t turn December in to July.

"So I’d also like to thank the thousands of Oxfordshire motorists who drove with care and to the conditions. Let’s all now look forward to spring and summer.”