Monday, 20 July 2015

1979 Blizzard Victim Returns to Pry House Farm - An amazing story.

The winter of 1979 is still talked about in the dales with the severe winter conditions continuing into early spring and cutting off remote farms at the top of Swaledale.
This is the story of Rolph Van der Pomeran and his friend Rini Van der Heyden, two young men from Holland, who in March 1979 found themselves stuck in a snow drift on the moor road between Keld and Kirkby Stephen. 
July 2015
The last time Rolph arrived at the door of Pry House Farm he and his friend were in a bad way suffering from hyperthermia and snow blindness. 

Rolph (20) and Rini (19) had no idea of the dangers that faced them when in March 1979 they drove past Pry House Farm on the B6270 towards Cumbria.  Several miles further along the moor road, a huge snow drift stopped them in their tracks. They remained in their car for 36 hours as the snow storm raged on.  The driving wind blew snow through every tiny crevice into the vehicle and the drifting snow mounted higher and higher eventually threatening to completely cover the car.  At this point the two young men decided they had to seek shelter and help.  Remembering that they had past a farm they began to walk back towards Pry House, a distance of approximately 6 miles (not knowing that actually they were only about 2 miles from the village of Nateby).  Wearing only
summer clothes and light shoes (it had been glorious weather when they left Holland) they struggled through 10 foot drifts back along the moor road.  After walking for just over 3 miles they sheltered in a stone barn but by this point Rini was suffering badly from the cold and just wanted to sit down and sleep.  Rolph recalls having to slap his friend to force him to carry on. 

Day after day throughout the winter of 1979 farmers from these remote hill farms walked out onto the fell to feed and look for lost sheep.  Clifford Harker of Pry House Farm was on the fell that day and as Rolph and Rini fought their way through the blizzard, Rolph heard a dog barking and hoped and prayed that if a dog was out there on the moor then there would be a man out there too.  As Clifford tended his sheep he came across the two young men and put them in a building in which he stored hay until he quickly finished his work.  Then the three of them began the 2 1/2 mile walk back to the farmhouse.  Rolph recalls asking Clifford how far they had to walk. "Oh, only about 10 or 15 minutes" replied Clifford.  After walking for over half an hour Rolph asked again how much further? "Not far, just another 10 minutes" said Clifford.  And so the conversation continued.  Rolph recalls that Clifford couldn't have employed a better tactic as if they had realised how far it was to the house they could easily have given up.
Clifford' wife, Jenny, was shocked and alarmed at the state of her two unexpected visitors.  Rini was in the worst condition; continually shaking, trance-like and suffering from snow blindness.  With absolutely no possibility of getting medical help to the farm Jenny phoned the doctor for advice and over the next few days the two young men improved.  Several days later, when fully recovered from their ordeal, they walked to Keld (2 miles) and Jenny's brother, Ernest, gave them a lift to Muker where they stayed a further night with Jenny's mother before getting a lift on Guy's wagon to Hull to catch the ferry back to Holland. 
Rolph with his wife Alarda when they stayed bed & breakfast at Pry House Farm in July 2015


There is no doubt that Rolph and Rini owe their lives to Clifford for rescuing them off the snow bound fell and to Jenny for her care during their stay at Pry House Farm.
Rolph and his wife Alarda spent two days with Chris and I at Pry House.  During their stay Rolph  enjoyed an emotional reunion with Jenny.  Sadly Clifford is no longer with us. 

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