For anyone who is my age this summer (until the weekend) brought back memories of the long and very hot summer of our childhood. 1976 was remarkable. Even as a 7 year old I was fascinated by long-since submerged villages re-emerging from evaporated reservoirs and the mass of ancient sites across our parched landscape being newly identified by aerial photography.
There was a view that this summer may replace it. Actually so far it hasn’t got close - with far fewer days of extreme temperatures and in any event the weather broke this weekend. My hopes of watching Sussex play at Hove were stymied but the rain is certainly needed in the garden!
Comparing this year with a particularly extreme summer does not however mean we can ignore the fact that nine of the ten hottest years on record have been since 2002. As the Met Office reports this week since the 1970s U.K. temperatures have risen and so has (dramatically) the amount of rainfall. Weather is becoming more extreme. Even this year in addition to a hot summer we saw an exceptionally wet and cold April.
Increasingly extreme weather has a real impact on peoples’ lives including here in the UK.
At the most basic level this includes farming. I enjoyed last week mounting a combine harvester at Westons Farm, Itchingfield to see the team bring in the earliest harvest – all done by August – in years. An early finish but given the lack of recent rain and how quickly the crop has developed, yields will be low. Farming is increasingly a specialised industry but it effects us all and it was a great feeling bringing in the wheat. Of the 11 million loaves produced every day in the UK 85 per cent of all the wheat used is British –feeding ourselves and minimising the costs and environmental effects of transportation. That’s a great success story but the vagaries of the weather effect farming today just as they did when George Mander Allender set up his renowned “model farm” at Westons 150 years ago.
Photo caption: Jeremy Quin joining the Harvest Team at Weston’s Farm, Itchingfield.