WITH the dawn of British Summer Time just around the corner, I hoped I had managed to negotiate the worst of the winter without putting my brand new snow tyres to the test.

But Saturday morning dawned with snowflakes the size of half crowns swirling round the grounds of Hextol Towers.

Despite the fact that for over 40 years I managed to get to Hexham and back every working day without the need for snow tyres, Mrs Hextol insisted that they were an absolute necessity for getting over Hareshaw Common during the winter months.

I have learned from bitter experience that it is futile to argue with Mrs Hextol when her mind is made up so I found some pre-owned snow tyres on one of the local selling pages, and had them fitted by a local garage for a tenner a piece – a process which added considerably to the value of the little Clio.

Until Saturday however, there had been more snow in my frost free freezer than on the roads round here, despite repeated hysterical warnings on social media that polar bears would soon come sailing down the Rede on ice floes and that Kielder Water would become one big skating rink.

I knew I had to head for Upper Redesdale and reasoned that the road over Hareshaw would already be something like the Cresta Run. So I decided to head for West Woodburn, where the A68 was sure to have received attention from the gritters even at 6.30am. That meant tackling the steep and snow clad climb towards the Blue Heaps, relics of Bellingham’s short-lived ironworks, and the snow tyres enabled the Clio to dance up there with only one or two gut wrenching shimmies towards the walls.

The climb out of Woodburn was interesting, as there was only one set of tracks in the snow in either direction, and what would have happened had I met someone coming the other way I shudder to think, as neither of us would have been able to stop.

I somehow slithered to my destination safely unlike a wagon driver who who had found it necessary to park his vehicle on its side on top of a wall on the outskirts of Rochester. Happily the snow had turned to rain by mid morning, and I was able to make an easy journey home.

I have one of the most attractive drives to work in the land, and am in the process of swapping twelve and half miles of inky blackness sprinkled with a billion stars for an equal measure of glorious sunrises and spectacular views of Muckle Cheviot with its dusting of crisp white snow on the far horizon as the nights get shorter.

The Clio is proving an excellent workhorse It starts first time, and only needs filling with diesel about once a month.

It has an excellent cd player, which enables me to work through my entire collection of Beatles tracks.

Several sheep have been startled by John Lennon’s raucous Mr Moonlight booming out over the moors along with my all time Beatles favourites This Boy and Yes it is. I had quite forgotten just how good the Fab Four actually were. Despite its plusses, there are one or two slight drawbacks which may affect any future resale value of my French fancy.

Even though I have never actually had one inside the vehicle, it smells like a long dead horse. While the “proper” car is regularly valeted at Mrs Hextol’s insistence, the horse car does not enjoy such extravagant cosseting. Equine odours from old coats, leggings, waterproofs and wellies create a memorable miasma, and every surface is covered with wisps of haylage and a thick dusting of straw.

Added to that is the pervasive pong of rubbish I have thrown into the back seat, intending to remove later, but because it is a two door model, this means moving either one or both seats forward a manoeuvre which results in the disturbed seat sliding backwards and forwards in a giddying manner for the next few days. For that reason, the rubbish remains largely undisturbed.

It is very heady stuff, and when I was stuck at traffic lights the other day an old friend spotted me and came across for a quick word.

When I wound down the window, he physically recoiled as waves of equine effluvia threatened to knock him off his feet and he said weakly: “I see you are still doing the horses then …”