The day Battle came to a standstill

BATTLE ground to a halt on Monday afternoon as motorists were taken by surprise by sudden heavy snowfall.

Traffic came to a standstill in many places, including the A21 and A2100, as drivers battled against slippery untreated roads in a desperate bid to get home.

There were reports of journeys which would have usually taken minutes instead taking several hours.

Some chose to abandon their vehicles and walk home or find some shelter for the night.

James Dennett, marketing manager at Battle Abbey School, took five hours to get home to Hastings after becoming stuck in traffic jams on the A21.

The 34-year-old left the site at 4.15pm on Monday, intending to take his usual route home through Battle on the A2100.

But after seeing other motorists struggling to get up the icy Battle Hill, he turned around to head back up the A2100 and down the A21, thinking the route would be gritted.

James said: “It was alright until the Blackbrooks Garden Centre, then I just sat in traffic.

“It was a nightmare. I have never experienced anything like that. It was crazy.”

After several hours without making much progress, and running low on petrol, James chose to abandon his car at the Sedlescombe Golf Club and walk the rest of the way.

James said: “When I got to Claremont School, there were people in high-vis jackets pushing cars.

“There were cars with tyres blown and clutches burnt out. Other cars and lorries had been abandoned.

“There was no evidence of gritting whatsoever.”

Thankfully a Good Samaritan stopped at Ebden’s Hill and offered James and other stranded motorists a lift.

Similar scenes were played out across Battle and the villages.

Russell Clark, 34, left work at Architeam in Powdermill Lane at 5.50pm on Monday to head home to St Leonards.

He reached the junction with Lower Lake and when he saw the tailbacks, he decided to take his chance on the train.

Russell said: “The main road was completely gridlocked.

“Nothing was moving in either direction.

“It took me 20 minutes to get from the roundabout to Battle Station.”

Despite delays and cancellations on the line, Russell managed to catch a train to West St Leonards, arriving at his home in Boscobel Road nearly two hours after leaving work.

He said: “I was lucky.”

Russell added: “It was different to the normal snow we get. And there was no evidence of gritting anywhere.”

Bexhill-based builder Martin Hargreaves was travelling home from work in Ticehurst when the heavy snow hit.

It took Martin just half an hour to get from Ticehurst to Battle but three hours to travel from Battle to Bexhill.

Martin praised a group of men who helped to push stricken vehicles up the hill on the B22044 in Catsfield and direct the traffic.

He said: “Once you hit Catsfield there were a couple of buses that were just stranded at the top of the hill.

“It was the final hill before you get to Ninfield which was just causing chaos.

“By the time I had got to that section, there were four or five gentlemen spending a lot of time doing a sterling job of getting people in their cars to the top.

“Without their help I think the majority of us would have been stuck in traffic jams for the rest of the night.”

There were similar stories of the community pulling together to help motorists battling the elements.

Battle Mayor Richard Bye rolled up his sleeves and joined a group of volunteers in helping push vehicles up Lower Lake.

And Battle Fire Station’s 4x4 Rope Rescue Unit was drafted in to take paramedics and medical staff to and from Hastings and Rye.

* East Sussex County Council defends gritters - see page 8 and 9.