'Like a tinderbox': Residents of UK's driest areas tell of rain shortage challenges

As more water companies bring in a hosepipe ban, Martha Fairlie reports on the dry and hot summer which is set to continue

People living in some of the driest places in England have told of the challenges they are facing due to high temperatures and a severe lack of rainfall.

The country is braced for another heatwave, with little rain expected to help relieve the threat of drought which has prompted hosepipe bans and fire warnings in recent days.

It comes after a July which was the driest for England since 1935, and the driest on record for East Anglia, southeast and southern England, according to the Met Office.

Temperatures exceeded 40C for the first time on record, which, combined with the scarcity of rainfall, has turned England's green spaces tinder-dry.

Odiham, a village in Hampshire, had no rain last month, according to the Met Office – with farmers, florists and the local cricket club forced to adapt to the parched conditions.

Odiham, a village in Hampshire, had no rain at all in July. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Cara Evans, bar and events manager for the Odiham and Greywell Cricket Club, said grounds officials have had to water the wicket at least once a day to ensure it is safe to play on the hardened ground.

“The drought has meant that we’ve had to water that wicket so much more often than we would normally have to do, and to try and keep it green and safe to play on," she said.

A local farmer, who did not wish to be named, estimated he has had to spend 50% more on food for his cattle this year compared to 2021.

His cows normally graze on the grass in his fields, but this has been unable to grow in the arid conditions.

Parched grass in a farmer's field in Odiham in Hampshire. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Elsewhere, Branching Out, a family run florist in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, has been inundated with orders for summer weddings as the nation’s couples rush to get married following the coronavirus backlog.

However, florist Fliss, who gave her age as in her 40s, said the shop has had to buy smaller deliveries to deal with the heat.

“We usually get quite large deliveries of flowers, but because of the heat we have had to get smaller,” she said.

“(The heat) affects what we buy, we have to be super careful with stock.

“We probably get quarter the amount of flowers, but more regularly than normal.

“We have been very cautious with what we’re buying, so buying things that last longer.”

The shop had several fans running simultaneously amid the 29C heat on Monday afternoon.

“This is for the flowers, not necessarily for us,” Fliss said.

In Writtle, Essex, a 65-year-old woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m worried about wildfires because my son is high up in the fire service … he’s out there in the thick of it.

“He’s been very busy into the night.

“They’re doing the harvesting and everything aren’t they, at the moment?

“So we’re a bit like a tinderbox.”

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The 10 locations in England with less than 250mm of rain since November 2021

  • Hartpury College, Gloucestershire

  • Bognor Regis, West Sussex

  • Wisley, Surrey

  • Wallingford, Oxfordshire

  • Botanic Garden, Cambridge

  • Shoeburyness, Essex

  • Manston, Kent

  • Writtle, Essex

  • Oxford

  • Kew Gardens, London