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The Great British Weather

Tonight presenter Jonathan Maitland with groundsman Mike Priestley at a flooded cricket club Photo:

You probably don’t need to be told this, but May 2012 is ontrack to become the coldest for over three hundred years.

It comes “hot” on the tail of the wettest April in a century and the driest March for more than fifty years. And let’s not forget that 20 million people are still banned from using their hosepipes!

So what is going on? That’s the question asked by Jonathan Maitland in the latest episode of ITV1’s Tonight show “The Great British Weather” on ITV1's Tonight at 7.30pm.

The extreme rainfall certainly knocked Taunton Deane Cricket Club for six.

The Dorset club had just prepared the wicket for the new season when the whole ground was engulfed in two feet of flood water at the start of the month.

Groundsman Mike Priestley saw all his hard work disappearunder the ripples:

I can’t believe it. In March I was rolling the square in just a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops; it was so hot.

Now look at it; we’ve got the addition of a lake.

One of the things we worry about is worms - there’ll be thousands of dead worms. God knows what the wicket’s gonna be like.

The trouble is you can’t do that much once the water goes down. You’re still going to have a sodden mass here.

It’s going to take ages and ages to be back to normal.

Jonathan Maitland with groundsman Mike Priestley at a flooded Taunton Deane Cricket Club

Rural Oxfordshire suffered extreme weather of a completely different kind little more than a week ago - a tornado and a torrential storm of hail as big as marbles.

Terese Pimm from South Leigh near Whitney was astonished by the storm:

“All of a sudden it was above us.

The sky was grey, so dark, and you could see the hailstones coming down.

It was like it was snowing, it was so white and it was coming down at such a speed. I ran outside, picked some up from the ground, took a picture on my phone and sent it to my mother in Sweden just to say ‘look what happened.’

We were gobsmacked; it was so surreal.”

Therese Pimm sent photos of the hail to her mother

There are about thirty reported tornados in the UK each year.

They’re examples of the sort of extreme weather that the Environment Agency believes we could see much more of in the future.

It’s produced a report on how global warming could change our forecasts by 2050.

The agency’s head of water resources, Trevor Bishop, explained:

“We think we will get longer drier spells and more intense rains storms so that’s more akin to the climate that we see in other parts of Europe than what we have got used to in Great Britain.

There is a risk that we are going to see more volatile weather.

It’s not absolutely certain, but we have got to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

So the agency is now planning to tackle longer droughts by pumping water resources around the country, by encouraging water companies to tackle leaks, and by asking all of us to use it much more efficiently.

And they’re building future flooding defences with global warming a high priority so we’re ready for more heavy rain.

Jonathan Maitland on land that should have been the car park for the Badminton Horse Trials.

The Badminton Horse Trials is another victim.

As the sporting calendar suffered a series of washouts, this highlight of the equine sporting calendar also had to be cancelled. Organisers of the three-day event at the start of May had no choice after car park and jumps were swamped.

Event director Hugh Thomas explained that the weather wipedout a fortune in business:

The turnover on the ground would be 10 to 15 million in shopping sales and so on.

And then you think of all the bed and breakfasts and the petrol stations, the restaurants, the pubs, goodness knows what else in the surrounding area who got no business at all and the knock-on effect is economically is huge.

The asparagus crop has been frozen out by cold, wet weather.

But while too much water is our most immediate problem, Britain still has an underlying drought.

A hosepipe ban in the south east is unlikely to be lifted this year, following two dry winters that have left ground water levels at worryingly low levels. And it will take much more rain to resolve that problem.

If you’d like to get in touch with the programme, please email tonight@itv.com

There are organisations that can help if you have flooding problems:

National Flood Forum http://www.floodforum.org.uk/ or call 01299 403055

Know Your Flood Risk http://www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk/

Environment Agency http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/