Rebecca Gissing is battling temperatures of minus 3C in frozen Manchester and logs on to Facebook to see photos of her family back home in New Zealand looking tanned and having barbecues on the beach.

But the 30-year-old from Howick says although it makes her miss the home she left four years ago, she knows she will be back and is making the most of the snow around her home with her son Mitchell, 14.

Ms Gissing, her partner and Mitchell awoke yesterday to 15cm of snow, the most the city in northwest England has seen for almost 30 years, after one of the coldest Decembers on record. Dubbed the "Big Freeze", the winter has forced schools, airports, train lines and motorways to be shut.

The Met Service has warned that up to 40cm of snow could build up in freezing temperatures which are expected to continue into late January. It is the longest cold snap in Britain since 1981.

But Ms Gissing, an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the snow was a rare novelty.

"You've got to make the most of it. In Auckland, you don't get snow. It amuses me, even though I'm 30. It has not been above zero for a few days and I don't think it's forecast to go above zero. Thank God for central heating.

"It's the coldest it's ever been and the most snow there's ever been. I couldn't even get to work.

"We're just stuck at home watching a bit of Oprah on TV and reading the Herald online ... We're all sick of each other in a small apartment."

Ms Gissing said that to combat boredom, Mitchell spent four hours outside yesterday making a 1.8m snowman, which he fitted with an All Blacks scarf, using capsicums for eyes and beans for a mouth.

She said it got dark about 3.30pm each day.