East Sussex Highways look after over 2,000 miles of roads and during winter they grit all major roads. Your County meets two people whose winter journeys are an essential part of their working lives.
Chris Davis has been a beef and sheep farmer for 35 years in Heathfield. He is one of 30 farmers and contractors across the county who work with East Sussex Highways to keep roads clear during winter. The scheme started in 1998.
“As farmers we live rurally so we are quite exposed during winter weather. We can’t afford to be unprepared for winter, because we need to be able to check and feed our animals. All our vehicles are prepared and checked on a weekly basis so we can get around. If roads are icy we often find cars sliding off the roads and breaking our fences, which can lead to livestock wandering off.
“We have been working with Highways since the scheme started to help clear local roads during winter. It makes sense for them to work in partnership with us, because we live and work in the area so we have the vehicles and the local knowledge. They make sure we are set up and they normally give us 24 hours’ notice that bad weather is going to hit. Once we get the information we use their snowploughs on our tractors to clear our local roads.
“Highways do all the gritting in our area, but even their drivers can sometimes get stuck on steep slopes and tricky bends, so we sometimes answer their calls to pull them out. Over the years we have become well-known locally, so we often get calls to help delivery vehicles get to shops in the town when they can’t get in or out.
“During our travels we often see people who aren’t ready for winter journeys and are taking a real risk. They just get in their car in the clothes they are standing up in and haven’t got their car ready for cold weather. Something as simple as a coat, a shovel and some sand or salt would help if you do get in trouble.”
Kelly Simpson has been a community midwife for 18 years. She is based at Hampden Park Children’s Centre in Eastbourne.
“We carry on with our work regardless of the weather, because babies don’t take notice of the weather or the time. I have to be able to get to expectant mums’ homes in the middle of the night in all conditions safely, because if I am stuck in a ditch I am not much use.
“Delivering the baby is our priority and getting to somewhere I might never have visited in the dark can be a challenge in itself. I often ask people to leave lights on or even hang out a balloon, so I can find them.
“To ensure I get to the homebirths I always make sure my car is serviced, my tyres are OK and the fuel tank is full. I can set off from Eastbourne and by the time I get to Crowborough, the weather could be very different. As well as my home-birth delivery pack, I always carry the usual scraper and de-icer, plus welly boots, a good torch, two mobiles in case one dies and a set of spare clothes. We are on call for 24 hours and we sometimes work right through.
“I went to a farm once in the middle of the night, as the farmer’s wife was going into labour. It had been raining heavily for weeks and the farmer had to come out in his 4×4 to get us down the mud track, and I remember delivering the baby wearing my daughter’s welly boots.”
• check the weather forecast
• check @esccroads or local radio
• essential travel only in poor weather
PREPARE YOUR CAR
• check tyre tread
• check wipers and washers
• buy de-icer and a scraper
• consider tyre snow socks for grip
BE SAFE ON THE ROAD
• reduce your speed
• pull over for gritters and blue lights
• charge your mobile phone
• keep water, food, a blanket, sturdy shoes in your car
• don’t drive through flood water
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
• report hazards, fallen trees or flooded roads to us quickly
• clear the pavement at home
• don’t use hot water to melt ice
WHAT EAST SUSSEX HIGHWAYS DO
• work around the clock
• keep you up-to-date via Twitter
• grit all major A and B roads
• show grit bins and gritter route maps on our website
• clear roads of fallen trees
• talk regularly to Sussex Police, Met Office and neighbouring councils