PEOPLE who can remember the famous snow drifts of 1947 and 1963 will say that winters in the Tyne Valley aren't as bad as they used to be.

It's fair to say that snow drifts as high as houses have been less of a problem in the intervening half century since the early sixties.

But the recent cold snap has proven that snow and ice remain a hazard on our roads and footpaths.

And last week, gritting teams from Northumberland County Council encountered a problem which the authority admitted was unprecedented.

Members of the public were shocked to see parked cars suddenly begin sliding in Hexham's main car park, at Wentworth, early on January 4.

A council spokesman explained: “Wentworth car park was treated as part of our precautionary gritting run from 4am on the Monday.

“During that morning we experienced showers of rain and subsequent re-freezing, followed later by thawing as the temperatures improved.

“Gritted areas need vehicle movement to activate the salt, so any bays that had cars parked up overnight would not benefit from the precautionary salting, and we have had reports that when ice started to melt a small number of cars, in certain bays, did move slightly which isn’t something that we have experienced before."

It was acknowledged that while the ice-rink conditions appeared in areas occupied by parked cars, the open areas, including the roadways within the car park, were safe.

The council said that elsewhere in Hexham, main town centre car parks are priorities when it comes to gritting and salting, while Coun. Cath Homer, who represents Hexham East on the county council, said gritting teams did their best to keep roads and pavements in Hexham safe.

Gritters were spotted elsewhere in the district, with council teams working to keep roads and pavements as safe as possible.

Yet on social media, residents rightly raised awareness of areas which remained hazardous.

It acted as a reminder that in adverse weather, we all have a duty of care to ourselves and each other.

While the local authority will try to maximise its resources, social media is an effective way to make other motorists and pedestrians aware of areas where extra care is needed.

But we should take nothing for granted as we venture outside, especially in these times of lockdown which are anything but normal.

With a 'stay at home' message now enforceable, people are only leaving the house for work or other essential reasons.

Many are working from home, and therefore roads and pavements are not getting the usual level of use that they would under normal circumstances.

If we have to drive, we need to give ourselves more time to adequately de-ice our vehicles and for the journey ahead. Winter tyres are preferable, but we should stick to main routes where possible, and drive with extra care.

Northumbria Police said motorists should always remember to clear headlights, ensure the windscreen wash is topped up, and also to carry an emergency supply of warm clothing, blankets, hot drinks, a torch, suitable footwear, and if snow necessitates, a shovel.

Motorists and pedestrians should carry fully charged phones, while anyone out walking should always were sturdy footwear which will provide maximum grip on slippery surfaces.