A team of delivery drivers have been hailed as heroes by a bakery after they braved and beat the Beast from the East.
The 29 drivers from the Village Bakery battled their way through the Siberian conditions to reach around 500 of their customers across North and Mid Wales, Shropshire and the North West.
Their never-say-die spirt has now been rewarded after the family-run firm presented each of them with a £30 voucher for a slap-up meal at the Fat Boar gastro pub in Wrexham.
It was a baptism of fire for the company’s new van sales manager, Chris Clark, who had only started a fortnight before the white-out.
Chris was proud of the magnificent way the drivers rose to the challenge of the Snowmaggedon which brought the region to a virtual standstill.
The bakery in Minera, near Wrexham, where the vans are based was covered in a thick, six-inch blanket of snow when the drivers arrived for their 4am start.
Most of the vans had been moved to the front of the building in anticipation of the big freeze and many of the drivers came in early to make sure they could get going on time.
HR manager Emma Stevens said: “Our magnificent drivers really did go the extra mile and managed to do virtually all their calls and get their bread delivered when other suppliers didn’t.
“There was a real sense of camaraderie when they came back and a host of stories of how they dug each other out. They’re just superb. They are an incredible bunch.
“They beat the Beast from the East, and the vouchers for the Fat Boar are our way of showing our appreciation. They deserve a reward because they do an incredible job.”
According to van sales supervisor Andy Austin, the conditions were “absolutely horrendous”.
He said: “It was very difficult for driving. You just had to take your time and drive carefully.
“A lot of other bakery firms didn’t make it, but we got there because we’re stayers. We’re made of sterner stuff.
“On a daily basis we deliver as far as Aberystwyth, Holyhead, Telford, and Liverpool; more or less all around the north west, and North Wales.
“As a supervisor I’m very proud of my team. They’re a fantastic bunch of lads and they’ve done a really good job.
“This gesture by the company is excellent. It’s nice to be valued and appreciated.”
It was a sentiment echoed by fellow driver Jason Williams who’s been with the Village Bakery for five months.
At one stage he had to dig himself out and even crawled under the van to clear the snow.
He said: “I deliver down to Shrewsbury and Mid-Wales which had the brunt of the snow.
“I came to a hill which was impossible for me to get up, so I had to slowly work my way back down into a gateway where I became bedded down in the snow up to my axles.
“I had to get on my belly and try to dig the snow out from underneath my axles to try and get traction to get moving again.
“I got out in the end with a bit of rocking and a bit of digging but it took me an hour.”
“The voucher for the Fat Boar is a fantastic gesture, I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s very kind of them and it goes a long way.”
Van sales manager Chris Clark was also out on the road that day and said: “The Beast from the East was the ultimate nightmare, but it also brought out the very best in our brilliant team of drivers. It was a bit like the Dunkirk spirit. The guys were determined to make it through even to the small villages because they know their customers and didn’t want to let them down.
“By close of play on Friday we were at 99 per cent coverage and on the Saturday, we managed to get to every single customer except one.
“When we got back, Kerry our pie room manager had hot chuck steak pies ready for all the drivers to warm them up.
“A lot of our competitors never left their depot, so I was really proud of the team. They rose to the challenge.”
Heroes…Village Bakery delivery drivers who went above and beyond the call of duty during the Beast from the East.