Gripping Yarns Continued: When The Sea Froze Over!

Roger Pout and have been firm friends since our school years in Herne Bay. We got into jazz together in our late teens. This is one of my very early attempts at "jazz photography".

Roger Pout and I have been firm friends since our school years in Herne Bay. We got into jazz together in our late teens. This is one of my very early attempts at “jazz photography”. Jazz was popular at the Kings Hall back then. Fans flocked to see stars such as George Melly, Chris Barber, Humphrey Littleton, Kenny Ball, Jonny Dankworth and Cleo Lane.

“When The Sea Froze Over” is the third in my Series of Short Stories about my early years in Herne Bay, Kent, to be featured on Jazz&Jazz. Some might seem out of place with jazz! But really they are not as I first got into jazz in my late teens in Herne Bay. Some will include my early jazz adventures in Herne Bay. For instance, visit “Just Reminiscing”! I’m also sharing the stories on Herne Bay & Herne Remembered.

“When hell freezes over” is an expression used to indicate that something anticipated or threatened will never happen. But it did!

I vividly remember the event. It was late night, Saturday, 29th December, 1962. Two friends and I stopped in our tracks as we emerged from The Divers Arms along from the Clock Tower on Herne Bay sea front. A ghostly, persistent rustling filled the freezing air. We crossed the road and peered over the low sea wall. Behold – a swell of heaving ice crystals!

It was the beginning of the “Big Freeze” – the winter of 1962/63 – one of the coldest in the UK since 1659. Within a few short hours the sea froze over way beyond the pier head – and the blizzards swept in!

But for us it heralded a series of thrills and spills – adventure time!


Salt water turning to ice!

Against all warnings a bunch of us dared to walk the frozen sea for at least a 100 yards offshore. We negotiated the blizzards and massive snow drifts across Reculver Marshes. We walked the frozen dykes and river beds. Ever upwards and onwards. We tobogganed and skied from the top of The Downs right along past The Ship Inn on the sea front to set new distance records. Not to speak of snowball warfare!

There was the time when a group of us heard Roger ‘A’ yelling “come back you Bs!” We turned back but he was nowhere in sight. He was the last in the line to negotiate the dyke – and the snow drift had consumed him.

Then there was the day when, thinking the roads were clearer, we set off in Roger “B’s” Mini heading in the direction of Reculver. We almost didn’t make it! But there were enough of us crowded in the car somehow to push the Mini clear.

Our winter wonderland adventures lasted into February when more blizzards struck. But of it all one frightening incident I will never forget.

Patch, my ever faithful dog accompanied us on many of these expeditions and especially loved skidding around on the frozen sea. So came the thaw and the ice flows. But Patch was unaware of the danger. He leapt from the beach onto the ice and then to the next flow. But it tipped as he landed and he slid back towards the crevice. He could have been crushed. I jumped onto the ice to save him. It tipped and impelled Patch towards me. Amazingly I caught him and leapt back to the safety of the beach.

Such vivid memories – as if they were yesterday!

Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

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  1. andy thompson says:

    it didn’t freeze ‘way beyond the pier head’ it froze well out but not that far.

  2. Peter Butler says:

    Not quite that far perhaps but when the sun shone on the frozen sea it seemed to meet up with the blue skyline!

  3. Paul Goddard says:

    Remember that winter well. I was living on Hayling Island, near Portsmouth, which at that time differed from the mainland by being free of foxes. I was part of a group of friends meeting regularly in the saloon of the West Town Hotel for beer, chat, and a good old sing-song. Other members of our crowd included a young couple who had just started a chicken farm on the island’s North Shore. During the freeze a fox got amongst the chickens having come over from the mainland on the ice!
    Sea water had frozen during previous years during my lifetime, but not on tidal waters.

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