Thanks for everyone's replies on tyre choice - Think I might try the Vredesteins this time....I'm being swayed by the aggressive pattern which looks like it might "do" mud a bit better than the Hankooks. Still interested in the Nokians but I think it may be they are better on snow and ice than they are on mud and slush???
With experience of both, and at the risk of sounding like I've got my soapbox out, I can agree entirely with posts about the difference between no Winter tyres, part worn and new - It's like the difference between dark and light.
They're not just for stopping you getting stuck, but so that you are able to get around at a reasonable speed for the conditions rather than a gingerly crawl and safely both for yourself and your passengers and without compromising the convenience and safety of the other road users to do the same.
I tried part worn (5-6mm allegedly) Wintracs on a Saab 9-3 Aero Auto Convertible the other half had a few years ago. I also put new budget Winters (Infinity) on the same car the following year.
Both were a different world compared to Summer tyres.
Then I put brand new Hankooks on Mrs R's recently departed BMW 120d MSport Auto last year. Spanking new IceCept Evos on the fronts and Icebears on the larger rear wheels turned a car that should probably have got stuck at the sight of the first flake, into a snowmobile. It really was quite incredible in any situation. Snow, ice, cold standing water, cold damp roads. The only thing that stopped it was any more than 3 inches of truly fresh virgin snow because of the low ground clearance. It would then bank up on the nose and cover the grill which obviously wouldn't have been good for the cooling system.
I accept that we are talking 4 wheel drive with a Forester rather than rear wheel drive and we've had a different back-up Subaru every Winter for the past 4 years, everything from Impreza WRX Estates to last year's Outback 3.0Rn.
The difference between Summer and Winter tyres on all has been ENORMOUS. Far too much of a positive to ignore.
Lived in Germany for a number of years and still make the drive across to Berlin 3 or 4 times a year. Again in a couple of weeks actually by which time the first significant snow may well have fallen. Almost certainly the ambient temperature will be below 7 or 8 degrees. Not risking the Forester on a 9 hour drive, particularly there. If it's still dry and above freezing, no speeds limits for the most part once over the border and 600kms to dispense with, it's always too tempting to open the taps!
Anyway, Das Germans operate the October to Easter rule there. There's no law stating you HAVE to wear Winter tyres in that time - It's what they call a "Rule of Thumb".
However if there's snow, ice or slush on the road, or you get caught holding up traffic without them the Police will fine you. If you cause an accident without them the fine is larger and usually accompanied by a ban (Incidentally, their speeding bans are amusing - They usually last a week and you can take them whenever you like within a 12 month period. So most people take them whilst they are out of the country on holiday.).
It's widely accepted that having good +5mm depth Winter tyres on your car means you're far less likely to get stuck, be delayed and more importantly far less likely to have an accident that might cause an injury to others.
Despite it not being law, I have never come across a German who wouldn't have Winter tyres on their car. It's just part of the cost of motoring, like having a working engine. They know it's the safest most convenient thing to do for themselves and their passengers and the most considerate thing to do for the safety and convenience of other drivers sharing the roads with them.
Winter tyres here are still a growing market, although I'm really pleased to see how many more mainstream stockists there are every year - Kwikfit now even offer a German-style "Tyre Hotel" to leave your out of season set of wheels and tyres in.
However, still relatively few people use Winter tyres or think they're worthwhile despite the data, despite those countries who rule and legalise for them, and despite the first hand accounts from those who do use them.
So the biggest problem for those of us who do use Winter tyres in the Winter remains - Getting stuck behind someone dangerously slithering around or crawling along at 10mph hanging onto the steering wheel as if they've conceded all control of their own car to the weather....Those who drive too fast for the conditions and their tyres (including those who think Winter tyres make them invincible), and those at the other end of the scale, without a clue, who think the middle pedal is the answer for any potentially slippery obstacle up ahead.