In the 20th year of the annual blessing ceremony for the LCC gritters, it’s time to look at what it really takes to keep us all moving in the worst of the winter weather.

It’s getting colder and the gritter team that looks after the roads in the freezing depths of winter are readying their vehicles ahead of the cold snap.  

So, it’s time for another dark night tradition for our county – the annual blessing of the men, women, machines and salt that keep us all moving when things get icy under foot and wheel. 

In this, the twentieth anniversary of the Lincolnshire gritter blessing, the honour fell to the Rt Rev Dr Nigel Peyton, Assistant Bishop for the Diocese of Lincoln to carry out the ceremony at an LCC Highways salt depot. 

After meeting some of the crew responsible for the winter-long task, Assistant Bishop Peyton blessed the gritters, staff and the salt that will be used across the coming months.  

Speaking after the blessing, he said: “It’s an honour to be carrying out the 20th anniversary blessing of the machinery, people and salt that is used to help keep the county’s roads safe.  

“The reason why we do this is, quite simply, to help people be aware of the upcoming weather and to remind them of how we need to keep ourselves safe, take care when driving and be courteous to others on the roads.  

“Our message is to be very careful, to think of other road users and for everyone to look after themselves.  

“I really appreciate the people who organise and maintain these machines, those who drive them and the whole team working behind the scenes too. The gritter drivers sometimes have to drive these lorries at very unsociable hours in order to keep us safe and I would think that, especially in bad weather conditions, that this is a very skilled job indeed.  

“We should all be grateful of the work these teams do. I think that, during the pandemic, we all learned to value people who we sometimes forgot about doing these sorts of jobs. These jobs that, perhaps we don’t see very often.” 


On site for the blessing was Darrell Redford, Network Resilience Manager. He said: “It’s great to have another ceremony, our 20th, for all of us involved in keeping the roads safe during the cold months ahead.  

“By doing this we’re also focusing minds and thoughts on the naturally worsening road conditions as the worst of the winter weather begins to bite. What we do with our gritting programme is important for road users, but a large part of road safety also relies on everyone on the roads to drive accordingly, be safe and show appreciation to other road users.” 

Darrell Redford, Network Resilience Manager at LCC, says that it’s not just a case of taking a best guess at where the salt is going to be needed on the ground when temperatures plummet. There’s a lot more science constantly going on behind the scenes.  

“We have 12 weather stations in Lincolnshire, and access to another 8 outside of the county that aren’t ours, but we share them with other areas to help us predict what weather fronts are moving across the area.  

“There are two stations in each domain, which are: the Wolds, the Coast, Grantham and Grantham Ridge, Lincoln Ridge and the Fens.” 

Whilst some might think that Lincolnshire is fairly flat and consistent in temperature across the county, the reality is that values at ground level can vary wildly. The undulating landscape causes a wide range of temperature values to deal with. 

“We see temperatures in the Wolds drop dramatically. They can go down a lot,” adds Redford: “And across the fens it tends to remain quite high.” 

This exact level of critical live information means that the gritting team can be equally as exact about when, and where, they put the salt down. The lower the temperature, the more salt is needed for a specific spreading area. 

Redford continues: “We have something called route-based forecasting where each route has its own forecast, based on the specific domains. This means that we can send out the appropriate gritters for the appropriate areas as needed. That alone save us a lot of money and resource.  

“It’s very important that we know what areas are at what temperatures too. When the road temperature is down to -2 we spread 7g of salt per square metre, between -2 and -5 we salt at 12g, at -5 to -10 that figure goes up to 17g of spread and when snow is on the road, or the temperature is lower than -10 then we go to the maximum 20g per square metre. Knowing exactly where, when and how much salt to spread anywhere in the county is an exact science and it saves us a lot of cash.” 

The prayer: Blessing the Gritters 

Lord God, we ask your blessing upon the work of our countywide gritters.  

And those who manage and operate them. 

Keeping us resilient and safe on Lincolnshire’s roads during the winter months. 

And may they be remembered of the need for safe and courteous driving at all times.  

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  


If you want to make a road more grippy, there are two types of salt you can use.  

The first is white in colour (it looks like the salt you may use at the dinner table) and needs to be treated with a brine wash as it gets spread.  

Darrell Redford, Network Resilience Manager said: “Any salt that you use has to be treated so that it’s more sticky. One of the biggest problems that we face is loss of salt once it’s been spread. Things like wind, rain, traffic and a host of other factors can all have a big effect on how much salt stays in contact with the road surface.  

“To mitigate for this, the salt is treated. Previously this would be done by mixing brine from the onboard tanks with the salt as it was spread. This added to the cost and wasn’t the most reliable of systems because if there was a blockage, or some other issue with the brine tank, then the solution couldn’t be used.  

“So we, like around 40% of the country now, switched to a more reddish salt that is treated with molasses. The molasses comes to us as a by-product from sugar beet production and gets directly applied to the salt so there’s no need for brine or a brine-delivery system. The lorries can carry more, it’s cheaper all round and the molasses-treated salt sticks to the road very well.” 

Twenty-two years of working with the gritters in Lincolnshire means that Darrell Redford, Network Resilience Manager at LCC, understands weather patterns across the county’s winter. 

“Since I started with the gritting team in 2000 there has been a lot of variance in temperatures.  

“The worst I’ve ever experienced in Lincolnshire was -22.5 which we saw at Newton on Trent during the 2010/11 ‘Beast from the East’ event. The county froze solid. I’ve never seen it as bad as that was in all the years I’ve been doing this job.  

“On the other end of the scale, this year so far has been the mildest we’ve seen. Before this year the mildest winter – and latest start to the gritting – was last year in 2021 when we first spread on November 16. We’ve gone past that date for this year, and it’s remained mild for some time.  

“Last year we went out salting on Christmas Eve but then we didn’t need to go out again until January 13. That was a long time to not have to grit in a winter. But once the lower temperatures hit us in last January it did come back with a vengeance and affected us quite hard, we were then going out regularly until late February.” 

Lincolnshire’s Gritter Crew – the stats 

  • There are 47 Gritters that serve the county – these range from mainly 26-tonne gritters with 10-tonne hoppers,18-tonne lorries with 6-tonne hoppers on the back and smaller 10-tonne versions with a 3-tonne hopper on the back 
  • LCC holds 29,200 tonnes of salt in the county’s stores this year 
  • On average, LCC uses 20,000 tonnes of salt a year. The gritting team used a bit less last winter because it was so mild 
  • The most salt ever used in one winter was across the 2010/11 ‘Beast from the East’ brutally cold season. That year a massive 38,000 tonnes of salt was put down on the roads. 
  • There are 12 weather stations around the county feeding data back about the weather and road temperatures. LCC has access to eight others sited with other counties which help to more accurately predict weather systems as they come across the country 
  • The county has a budget of £1.2m a year for salt. Last year the council spent £900,000 on the grippy stuff 
  • The molasses-treated salt that is bought in will last for five years – this lifespan had never been tested though as the salt stored is always used well before the five years is up