Today, Wednesday 20 March, is the day of the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of spring to you and me. Although you might not know it by stepping outside or looking out the window, that means that winter is officially over and so too – until the next time that the weather gets colder and the nights get longer at least – is Norfolk Winter.
Those of you who have followed us from the start will know that we’ve aimed to cover a wide range of winter related advice, activities and information, from Christmas meals to grey seals and from snowstorms to how to keep warm.
So for our final post we thought we’d do a bit of a round-up to paint a picture of this winter in Norfolk. And do keep reading on down to the bottom because we also want to know what you think of our blog and what we should do in the future. There’s even a nifty poll that you can fill in.
So for our round-up, where else to begin but with the weather? Looking out of the window now it’s still wet and cold deep into March and that’s been something of a theme this winter, with some of the worst snow to hit Norfolk in recent years. The Met Office’s climate station in Marham, West Norfolk, reported 9cm of snow in mid-January and Marham even had the dubious honour of recording the coldest temperature of the year at the time, a bone chilling -13.1°C.
All of that has meant a huge amount of work for our indefatigable gritting teams, some of whom we interviewed in February. They’ve been out on a record 135 runs so far this winter (and remember that’s just a latest figure so it could still increase), which is equivalent to 280,800 miles worth of Norfolk roads being covered in grit over the last few months. That’s far enough to take you around the world 11 times or to get to the moon. Although we accept that might take you a while in a gritting lorry.
Back in the heady days of early November when we’d all forgotten what snow looked like we spoke to Highways Maintenance Manager at Norfolk County Council, Nick Tupper, about the ins and outs of gritting. Since then, over 35,000 tonnes of grit have been laid on Norfolk’s roads this winter, or around 1,254 lorry loads. That’s without even mentioning the 1,660 grit bins in Norfolk, which have each been refilled three times each on average this winter.
One of the most popular, and heart-warming, stories we ran was a joint effort in December from Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services and Waterstones, who teamed up to help give presents to children in care in Norfolk, courtesy of the Giving Tree, in the Waterstones store in Castle Street, Norwich.
We’re delighted to report that all the 251 tags on the tree were sold (and all before the end of the school term – a first) and with some people coming into the store just to buy books for the children, the total number of books sent to children in care was around 300. The feedback that has come back from some of the children who received books is that they have truly treasured them.
Age UK Norfolk have been regular and helpful contributors to the Norfolk Winter blog and in November they told us about how Norfolk’s older people can help stay clear of fuel poverty by applying for funding from their Surviving Winter campaign.
The news from Age UK Norfolk as of Monday is that they have had a large increase in the number of calls asking for support compared to last winter and have been able to offer a great deal more help this time around. £71,689 of the Surviving Winter fund has been distributed to 448 people this winter, more than doubling the number Age UK Norfolk were able to help last winter.
In the early days of Norfolk Winter, Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards ran a post all about safety testing for electric blankets, spreading news of various roadshows taking place across the county where you could bring your blanket along and find out if it was unsafe. As it turned out, 115 of you brought along faulty electric blankets that were judged to be a safety hazard, that was a whopping 45% of all the blankets tested (although this is down from 53% last year). Something of an eye-opener for those of us who use an electric blanket during the colder months.
And finally, you may have taken part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch and sent off your results following the RSPB in the East post all about looking out for the birds in your garden in January. The results aren’t quite in yet but the RSPB are expecting to publish them on their Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East blog before the end of the month, so it’s worth keeping their page (just click on the link provided) on your favourites if you’re keen to find out.
So now we’ve taken a look back at this winter, it’s time to glance forward to the next one – and that’s where we’d really like your help.
Our intention is to return next winter with more information on how people can keep happy, healthy and safe in Norfolk and we hope that it’ll be (even?) better than it was this year. To do that we want to know what you think. After all the whole purpose of the blog is to provide you with useful information, so we need you to tell us what was useful for you.
What was it you particularly liked about how we tried to keep you informed this winter, and what didn’t you like? What would you like to hear more about and what do you want to hear less of? What did we do well and what could we do better? While we want feedback about the blog, we’re also keen to hear your ideas and suggestions for other ways we could better share information with you – and you with us – that would help you and other people get through the winter. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post, or email us if you’d rather not air your views in public – there’s an email address on the ‘contact us’ page of this blog.
Or, if you’re short on time, you can vote in our rather slick poll – it’s the first time we’ve created a poll on here, can you tell? You can choose as many answers as you like and please do leave a comment if there’s anything particular you’d like to suggest. Here you go…
There’s not much left to say now other than a few messages of thanks. Firstly, to all the people from various different organisations, departments and charities that worked with us to help produce the blog posts and kept the blog going for as long as it did. Your help has been invaluable and there couldn’t have been a Norfolk Winter blog without you.
A big thank you also goes to all of those of you whose photos we used for any of our posts (some of our favourites adorn this post), and that extends to anyone who added their snaps to the Norfolk Winter Flickr group, which has nearly doubled in size. Your shots have added colour and animation to what would otherwise have just been a block of text.
And finally, thanks to you! Every page view, comment, Facebook like, retweet and reblog has been genuinely very much appreciated.
Anyway, we’re in danger of coming over a bit Oscar-winner’s-speech here so it only remains for us to say have a lovely spring, summer and autumn, keep your fingers crossed for good weather and we’ll hopefully see you back here next winter.
The Norfolk Winter team