Friends Get Plowed During New Year's Snowstorm

A group of 30 friends traveled to England's highest altitude pub, the Tan Hill Inn, to celebrate New Year's Eve. The group had attended the University of Leeds together, and all been members of the cross-country running club. They were expecting to stay one night, but a snowstorm turned it into a three-day party. Guest host Mary Louise Kelly catches up with one of the party-goers, Chris Birchall, who didn't get out until Sunday morning.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Now, we'll turn from the drama of water to drama in the snow. It started on New Year's Eve at England's highest altitude pub, the Tan Hill Inn in West Yorkshire. A group of friends got together for a New Year's party, and then a snowstorm hit. So while most of us have put the champagne and hangovers behind us, resolutions already broken, for these guys, the party didn't end until today.

On the line with me now is one of the survivors of this episode, Chris Birchall.

Welcome.

Mr. CHRIS BIRCHALL: Hello.

KELLY: Hello. So let me start with the beer. You just spent three days stuck in a pub with 30 of your closest friends.

Mr. BIRCHALL: That's right, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KELLY: How many pints would you estimate were consumed?

Mr. BIRCHALL: Well, when we went in, they had four different specialty beers on. We finished three of them. So each of those will have been probably 48 pints. So we've had a lot.

KELLY: I'm glad that you're upright still to tell us this story, then. We read in the Guardian newspaper, where we spotted this story, that the one you were down to was Black Sheep's Riggwelter. Is that as atrocious as it sounds?

Mr. BIRCHALL: It's not too bad. It's very, very strong, lots of alcohol. So we left it until last because we didn't know what the effects would be.

KELLY: And you are all alumni of the same school. Is that how you know each other?

Mr. BIRCHALL: Yes. We've all been to Leeds University and been in the cross-country club. So we're all runners.

KELLY: The cross country club runners. Okay.

Mr. BIRCHALL: Yeah.

Kelly: As opposed to cross country skiing, which might have actually been useful. So what was the plan supposed to be for you all?

Mr. BIRCHALL: Well, we often get together at New Year and go to different pubs in the country. This one in particular, they specialize in New Year's parties. They have a barn. They were going to put on a barn dance and a...

KELLY: A barn dance.

Mr. BIRCHALL: Just kind of like a big barn with a DJ, but it didn't happen in the end.

KELLY: The snow rolled in, and you ended up all staying in the inn. This is the highest pub in England.

Mr. BIRCHALL: Yeah.

KELLY: How far away are you from the nearest city?

Mr. BIRCHALL: It's six miles from the nearest village. A hundred years ago, there were still a lot of mines out there, and it was set up as a cottage for mine owners. But that's long since closed, and there's only the one building that remains, and that's the pub.

But it's quite unique. It's known for its bizarre customer service. You go up there and get shouted at and insulted and things like that.

KELLY: This is a selling point for the Tan Hill Inn.

Mr. BIRCHALL: People go up there just to see what it's like. We had a great time. And the staff were very friendly, but it is unique. Yeah.

KELLY: How did you pass the time, three days?

Mr. BIRCHALL: Well, every day we got up and just started thinking about how we were going to get out. In the afternoon, we all just tried various ways of getting out, generally just failed. Late afternoon, when it got dark, sat down, ate some food and started on the beer again.

KELLY: How much snow did you all actually have?

Mr. BIRCHALL: Probably only a foot of snow. I mean, the main problem is that in England, we're just not, we're not used to snow. Nobody knows how to drive on snow.

KELLY: How did you all finally dig out? That was this morning.

Mr. BIRCHALL: Well, last night, a couple of people contacted the BBC, and we were on the radio last night, BBC radio. When we got up this morning, before 9 a.m., we just - there's a couple of people who were outside and saw all these vehicles coming over the horizon, a variety of plows and snow blowers, and then we just set off in a convoy, making sure everyone got (unintelligible) to the hills and then all got together in the nearest village, shook hands and went our separate ways.

KELLY: You didn't all head to a pub afterward?

Mr. BIRCHALL: No. No, no.

KELLY: That's Chris Birchall, telling us about being stranded over the long New Year's weekend at England's highest pub. Thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. BIRCHALL: Thanks.

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