Couple stranded after snow blizzard

PUBLISHED: 14:45 15 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:30 18 June 2010

A NEWTON Poppleford couple who became stranded on Dartmoor in a snow blizzard with no food or water last week ended up helping two elderly Sidmouth ladies to refuge. Nikki Chapman, her fiancé Robert Peckham, her parents and a friend had enjoyed a night a

A NEWTON Poppleford couple who became stranded on Dartmoor in a snow blizzard with no food or water last week ended up helping two elderly Sidmouth ladies to refuge.

Nikki Chapman, her fiancé Robert Peckham, her parents and a friend had enjoyed a night at the theatre in Plymouth last Thursday to celebrate Nikki's 27th birthday.

But the enjoyable evening turned into a horrendous nightmare as they struggled through perilous weather conditions to get home.

Robert, a driving instructor for RPMotoring, said: "As we climbed up the A38 the road turned into a snow blizzard and we couldn't even see as far as the car in front of us. I teach classes in advanced drive skidding and I used it to its full potential that night."

At 12.30am on Friday morning, the traffic had not moved in an hour and police directed Robert to turn around and use a B road, which goes over Dartmoor, to get home.

"We were going down a road which hadn't been gritted or driven down since the snow fell. We were completely lost and we couldn't read the road signs because they were covered in snow.

"The police were praised for how they rescued people on Haldon Hill but we got turned around onto the darkest part of Dartmoor."

On the journey the group helped many people whose cars had become stuck in the snow or broken down, including the "panicked" women from Sidmouth.

Robert added: "Branches and overhead wires were really low because of the weight of the snow.

"I did crash twice into trees and had to jack the car up. It was like a scene from a scary movie-driving on a solitary road in the dark on the moors."

The convoy of five cars, which now included 11 people, eventually stopped after the treacherous conditions meant the road was impassable.

Nikki said: "There was no mobile phone signal or sat nav signal available.

"I was incredibly worried as to how we would survive the night if we had to sleep in the car."

The group decided to backtrack and they made their way in the direction of a solitary light which turned out to be the Manor House pub in Ashdon.

The landlord used his Land Rover to tow each car individually into his car park.

Robert added: "They were a godsend. They gave us food and drink and didn't ask for anything back."

The group were given blankets and spent the night sleeping on the pub floor.

The couple eventually got home at 3pm on Friday afternoon after struggling through the compact snow on the roads.

Nikki added: "It really was a very scary experience and we were amazingly lucky looking back, it could have been so much worse."

* Read Robert's driving tips which can be found in the motoring section of the Sidmouth Herald for advice on driving in treacherous road conditions

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