One year ago, plenty of fun was had in the snow.

With colder weather visiting us more and more now, here is a round-up of some news, schemes and tips to help keep safe and warm through the season…let us know your tips in the comments section below.

But first…remember that winter can also be a lot of fun! Many people – young and older – enjoyed the fun last year in the big snowstorm: sledging, building snowmen, and tossing snowballs. Remember, Clacy’s garage sells sledges – they make a great Christmas present! They also sell salt!

And, if you wrap up warmly, why not head out for a walk around town to see the Christmas lights and decorated windows? Often, there are groups of people doing just that together – see HERE for example.

Dr Paul Barber at the Whitchurch Surgery

COLD LOWERS RESISTANCE

Dr Paul Barber of the Whitchurch Surgery says, “We certainly notice that we are busier in the winter. Keeping warm this winter is an important part of staying healthy particularly the elderly or those who have other illnesses. Cold lowers resistance to infection and can cause a strain on the heart and circulation increasing the risks of strokes and heart attacks.”

He concluded, “Practical help with keeping houses warm and how you can help elderly relatives and neighbours is on the KEEP WARM, KEEP WELL website from the NHS.”

Age UK are campaigning to Spread the Warmth

INDOOR COLD

Age UK is advising older people of the risks of both indoor and outdoor cold in an effort to stem the ‘British disease’. A recent report by Age UK says that it is working with the Met Office in its campaign ‘SPREAD THE WARMTH’.

Age UK stated, “The irony is that the colder countries of the world – such as the Nordic lands, Russia, Canada and so on – have much lower winter mortality than the ‘warm’ UK…How can this be?”

The answer according to Age UK is that Britain has a “heritage of an old and poorly insulated housing stock [that] has meant that for years many have been consigned to winters spent in indoor cold, unable to afford their heating bills.”

A report cited by the Department of Health in their Cold Weather Plan for England agrees: ‘Countries which have more energy efficient housing have lower excess winter deaths.’

Changing your electric and gas supplier may save you hundreds of pounds a year.

CHEAPER FUEL COSTS

Many people stay with their current gas and electricity supplier year after year, when a simple check could save possibly hundreds of pounds in fuel costs – just by switching to a new provider or cheaper plan.

Martin Lewis who runs the Money Saving Expert website states, “Prices are rising, the cheapest fixed tariffs are disappearing, yet millions on standard tariffs can still save about £300+ a year by switching to the top deals. They can also get up to £30 cashback or a crate of wine for doing so.”

FREE HOME INSULATION

To save even more money, keep the heat you create in!

Hampshire County Council is promoting a scheme called WINTER WARMER which aims to insulate homes throughout the county, including here in Whitchurch.

To get free cavity wall and loft insulation for your home under the scheme, you must have less than 60mm of loft insulation now – a free technical survey is offered to make sure you are aware if you need to pay anything. Applications must be in by the end of March 2012.

When it's cold outside, keep warm inside.

KEEP WARM, KEEP WELL

As mentioned above by Dr. Barber, the NHS is promoting ‘Keep Warm, Keep Well‘ where it states, “Every winter in the UK, 25,000-30,000 deaths are linked to the cold weather. Currently, approximately four million households in the UK are in fuel poverty. This is when a household spends more than 10% of its income to keep warm.”

The NHS suggest:

  • Keep your main living room at around 18-21°C (64-70°F),
  • and the rest of the house at least 16°C (61°F).
  • If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day,
  • and the bedroom just before you go to sleep.

It is also important to dress warmly before heading outside. Wearing several layers of clothes helps keep you warm.

FROZEN PIPES BURST JOINTS

Many think it is the expansion of water into ice that causes pipes to burst – but research has found that it is more likely that the expanding frozen water forces back the incoming supply, which is at higher pressure, to susceptible joints – that is, ones that have been put under strain repeatedly by freezing and thawing. See this video for a dramatic demonstration of this: What Makes Pipes Burst.

Southern Water says, “Last year’s freezing temperatures caused a record number of water leaks in households and on the water supply network. In December 2010 alone, insurance companies received 103,000 claims for property damage at a cost of £680 million after burst pipes flooded homes across the UK.”

Be prepared: know where your water stopcock is; and the main breaker switch for the electricity supply to your house.

Routes for cars are prioritized over pedestrians and cycle tracks by Hampshire County Council.

CARS ROUTES PRIORITIZED

Many roads are spread with salt when cold weather is forecast; this is done in a priority order. Around town, you’ll find salt bins that you can use to spread salt yourself on the neighbouring roads.

If you are a pedestrian or a cyclist, though, Hampshire County Council says you are own your own for the most part: “Busy pedestrian routes [and cycle tracks] will only be salted at times of prolonged sub-zero temperatures and when there is persistent frost or ice. Other pavements and footpaths are not salted.”

Update: Hampshire County Council have told this website just after this story was published that they define a ‘prolonged’ period as “4-5 days for frost and ice. For snow conditions we would aim for a bit sooner, say 3 days for secondary routes.”

WHITCHURCH SNOW CRISIS LINE

Last but not least, remember that Whitchurch has its very own snow crisis line, to help the vulnerable in times of desperate need during a snow emergency. See our story on that HERE.


You can read the full Age UK article HERE and learn about their campaign at SPREAD THE WARMTH. Hampshire County Council’s free insulation scheme is at WINTER WARMER with further details at INSULATE HAMPSHIRE. See also the NHS advice for VERY COLD WEATHER.

The Money Saving Expert website articles for cutting energy costs are at: CHEAP GAS & ELECTRICITY.

There is a collection of tips from the DirectGov website which are quite helpful at GET READY FOR WINTER. Hampshire County Council also refers pedestrians and cyclists to DirectGov’s website to learn about CLEARING SNOW AND ICE FROM PAVEMENTS YOURSELF.

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