THE spell of snow and ice which has held West Oxfordshire in its grip since last week is not expected to end until the weekend.

Temperatures which have been stuck at or below freezing most of the time since last Friday’s heavy snowfall are set to rise on Saturday, finally sparking a thaw.

After light snow and chilly temperatures early last week, several inches of snow carpeted the district on Friday bringing problems for motorists, public transport and schools.

Although many people were able to get to work in the morning, snow continued to fall, with increasingly treacherous driving conditions, despite the best efforts of gritting crews.

Stagecoach suspended some bus services during the day due to snow on roads, including the S3 between Chipping Norton, Charlbury and Oxford, while problems with snow on Oxford Hill in Witney and at Curbridge and Brize Norton affected routes S1 and S2, which were diverted.

First Great Western train services on the Cotswold Line kept running with minor delays.

While Burford School had announced on Thursday that it would be closed due to the forecast of snow, it was followed the next morning by many others as snow began to fall. Across Oxfordshire 238 of the 275 schools were closed or partly-closed on Friday. Most reopened on Monday.

Children took full advantage of the extra day off to take to the slopes in sledges and toboggans, or other less conventional sleds, created snowmen or enjoyed snowball fights.

The grown-ups joined in over the weekend in Chipping Norton, the county’s highest town, where the steep slope of The Leys was turned into a sled run enjoyed by young and old alike.

At one point a gritting lorry turned up to lay salt down the road but it turned away after children who wanted to enjoy the snow as long as they could sat across the road.

And the nearby recreation ground provided a venue for snowboarders, including former resident Terence Goad, 40, who had made a special trip back to the town from Oxford to take advantage of a rare opportunity to show off skills usually more use in the Alps.

Mr Goad said: “It’s just a 20 to 30-metre run, so it’s not the Alps, but it’s something to get you out and about and it’s a good excuse to do something before you go to the pub.

“I live in Oxford but I used to live in Chippy so I know it’s quite good for snowboarding. I wasn’t the only one doing it. There were a few others, including a few kids.”

But is wasn’t all fun, with icy pavements posing a major hazard. The South Central Ambulance Service reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of 999 calls it received from Friday until 7pm on Sunday, compared to the same period last week.

It handled 4,166 emergency calls, an increase of 694 on the previous weekend, of which 744 were about falls and 111 involved road accidents.

A minibus which went off the westbound slip road from the A40 at the Ducklington Lane interchange in Witney on Saturday night had to pulled out of snow but the driver was unhurt.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park has temporarily closed its doors to the public because of the weather conditions but plans to reopen on Saturday.

While some of the animals, such as the reindeer and wolves, were in their element, others used to sunnier climes, such as the meerkats, headed for the comfort of their heated house.