Photo gallery: Cold snap descends on the Queen’s estate at Sandringham in Norfolk

A frosty morning on the Sandringham Estate. Picture: Ian Burt

A frosty morning on the Sandringham Estate. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

Not even the Queen’s estate could escape from Jack Frost’s icy clutches. But the wintry scenes were thawing last night, as forecasters predicted warmer climes in advance of Her Majesty’s arrival for Christmas.

As the cold snap descended, the lakes froze in Sandringham Park and the gardens around the Royal Family’s Norfolk retreat wore a blanket of thick frost yesterday.

Trees wept icicles in the park, after temperatures dived several degrees below freezing. West Norfolk’s lowest-recorded temperature on Wednesday night was -5.9C, at nearby Marham. At Santon Downham, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, the mercury plummeted as low as -7.9C.

Norwich Airport saw a mimimum of -4.8C, while Weybourne dipped to -3.8C and Cromer basked in a relatively balmy -1.7C.

So far, the Beast from the East hasn’t sunk its teeth into us. Today is more likely to bring downpours than blizzards – with heavy rain the price we’ll pay for a welcome rise in temperatures. A mere Pest from the West by comparison, you might say.

“We’re looking at milder weather, with some wet and windy conditions on Friday,” said Jim Bacon, forecaster with Norwich-based Weatherquest. “It’ll be a wet day after a dry start.

“Temperatures will be coming up over the second part of the night. It’ll be a cold, windy day with some outbreaks of rain in the middle of Norfolk, turning wet and windy in the afternoon, clearing out to sea by evening.”

Mr Bacon said Christmas shoppers could even stay dry over the weekend, with blustery weather and just the odd shower predicted for what retailers hope will be one of their busiest weekends of the year.

Forecasters are divided over what next week might bring, although snow is looking less likely to feature in the run-up to Christmas in this part of the world.

“We’re offering odds of snow on Christmas Day in Norwich of 6-1 given the odds of other places,” said a spokesman for William Hill, who added the odds for London were 4-1.

He said a single flake of snow would need to fall in the 24 hours of Christmas Day on the weather station at RAF Marham to trigger a payout.

Last night Norfolk County Council said that so far its gritting lorries had been out 34 times this winter – more than three times as often as by this time in 2011/12.

A spokesman said each run covered 2,000 miles of the county’s roads, using 57 vehicles, while so far the authority had used 7,000 tonnes of salt.

Cold alone does not necessarily mean snow. Thousands will have an eye on the forecasts as Christmas Day nears and they prepare to set off for Sandringham for a Norfolk tradition beamed around the world on TV screens and the internet on December 25.

Before they sit down for their turkey with all the trimmings, the Queen and members of the Royal Family attend Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church. One certainty, come frost or blizzard, is well-wishers are bound to be there to greet them – whatever the weather brings.

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