PICTURES of the frozen UK jogged a memory for one of my readers who now lives in Queensland, Australia.
Sarah Grodecki sent me this wonderful picture of her and her twin sisters standing on a punt frozen into the Thames at the beginning of 1963.
Sarah says: “The Thames at Staines was frozen solid. My dad, Derek Berney, took me (Sarah, aged eight) and my twin sisters, Nancy and Kate, (aged four) on a walk across the frozen river beside Staines Bridge.
“There were boats frozen in place at the side of the river. I was petrified and my father dragged me across. I seem to remember a small hole when we were half way across, but that could just have been my fear.
“The photograph was taken on the Egham side of the bridge on the opposite side to The Swan pub. This was just before we did the walk.
“When I now look at the photo, I can see water on the surface. No wonder I was scared! As you look down the river you can see a little estuary with a bridge over it. (I think it is still there).”
Actually, Sarah, I think that’s Church Island you can see in the background with the footbridge connecting it to the Lammas Park. Interestingly, the snap also captured the old engineering works, which occupied the land to the north of the river – does anyone remember what they made there?
Sarah adds: “We lived in Rosefield Road, Staines at the time. There were a few people on the river when we crossed but not near us, so there must be other people with this memory.
“Later in life, when we talked about it, my father was regretful and embarrassed that he had risked our lives in this way.”
I’m very grateful to Sarah for sharing this memory with us. She now lives in Beaudesert, near Brisbane in Queensland. I hope she has not been affected by the devastating floods, which have ravaged this part of the country.
Incidentally, just to show that the freeze affected a huge stretch of the Thames, the second picture is of people walking on the ice right beside Chertsey Bridge during the same winter. I’m told that the temperature was probably only around -5 or -6 degrees centigrade – not as cold as our recent experience – but the temperature stayed at that level all the time so the ice never had a chance to thaw.
This photo is taken from an excellent book entitled ‘Surrey in the Sixties’ which documents life in our part of the world during that era. It’s a real memory-jogger for all those old enough (like me) to remember trolley buses, bouffant hairdos and mods on Lambrettas and Vespas.