Home   Kent   News   Article

Kent: Will this year's heatwave rival the summer of 1976

By Jenna Dobbs

Think this year's heatwave has been a scorcher? We've taken a look back at the unforgettable summer of 1976.

It was one of the most prolonged hot spells in living memory, and the country's second-driest summer on record.

Crops failed, water supplies were short, reservoirs all but disappeared and emergency measures were introduced by the government.

A cutting from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976. Southern Water authority advert due to the drought
A cutting from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976. Southern Water authority advert due to the drought

Last month, Kent saw its driest June in almost a century, and grass fires have devastated huge chunks of the county's farmland over the past few days.

With just 47mm of rain, this year has seen the driest start to summer on modern records, but has yet to rival the extreme drought in the 70s.

In 1976, it was also the sunniest summer on record, with 669 hours of glorious sunshine - so far, the UK has had an average of 385 hours.

Lord Nugent, chairman of the National Water Council, with the new Save the Water symbol, commissioned by the National Water Council. Picture: PA/PA Archive
Lord Nugent, chairman of the National Water Council, with the new Save the Water symbol, commissioned by the National Water Council. Picture: PA/PA Archive
Staines Reservoirs in Middlesex, during the drought of 1976. ... PA/PA Archive
Staines Reservoirs in Middlesex, during the drought of 1976. ... PA/PA Archive

Back in 1976, the River Medway reached a record low, as the Labour administration considered shipping in supplies from Norway.

Hosepipe bans were put in place, emergency standpipes introduced and all pumping from rivers stopped.

Kent managed to avoid many of the emergency measures affecting the rest of the country, due a large number of underground reservoirs.

Similarly, this year, South East and Southern Water say there are no plans to restrict homeowners' water usage, but we have been urged not to waste it.

National Farmers' Union Council Delegate for Kent, Kevin Attwood, was 17 during the hot summer of 1976.

Kevin, of Dawn Court Farm in Doddington, says this year's heatwave hasn't been as extreme as the scorching temperatures back then.

In 1976, farmers suffered some of the worst conditions they had seen since the 1920s, with many facing devastating financial losses.

A farmer tends to his drought-hit farmland at Broad Oak in Kent. Picture: PA/PA Archive
A farmer tends to his drought-hit farmland at Broad Oak in Kent. Picture: PA/PA Archive
Library images from the Evening Post (August) about the 1976 drought
Library images from the Evening Post (August) about the 1976 drought

Kevin said: "The drought in 1976 affected yields and harvests, but this year's heatwave hasn't been quite as severe.

"It started later in the year, and it hasn't gone on for as long.

"If you go back to 1975 and 1976, it was also critical that 75 had been a dry year too."

Kevin says he is hoping for some rain soon, but that the uncertainty is all part of being a farmer.

As a crop farmer, dry land also means grass fires are an ever-present risk for his Swale farm.

He added: "We're going to see a few more confires this year, I'm afraid.

"All you can really ask people is to be extra careful, because they can be started by cigarette butts, barbecues, almost anything.

"The problem was the same then as it is now."

A cutting from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976. Southern Water authority advert due to the drought
A cutting from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976. Southern Water authority advert due to the drought

Livestock farmers could also be in for a hard winter, as forage, which is used to feed animals during the colder months, could be in short supply.

After weeks without significant rainfall, a lack of grass means some farmers may be unable to produce enough silage to sustain their animals in the coming months.

Kevin said: "Feeding livestock this year will be a challenge, same as it was in 1976."

George Dowse, divisional agriculture officer for Kent in 1976, warned the Evening Post on August 25: "The financial loss for farmers is going to be considerable and agriculture will take a long time to recover."

Nationally £500million of crops were destroyed and food prices soared by 12%, but Brewery Shepherd Neame, of Faversham, reported sales were up by 8% on the previous year and were at their highest since the war.

The River Thames, during the drought. Picture: PA/PA Archive
The River Thames, during the drought. Picture: PA/PA Archive
Residents of Peryn Road, Tavistock, Devon had the reality of the drought crisis brought home to them as they filled buckets from a water standpipe in the street
Residents of Peryn Road, Tavistock, Devon had the reality of the drought crisis brought home to them as they filled buckets from a water standpipe in the street
Cuttings from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976.Southern Water authority advert due to the drought
Cuttings from the Kentish Gazette in July 1976.Southern Water authority advert due to the drought

Towards the end of August Lord Denis Howell was appointed Minister for Drought and warned of water rationing until December.

A week later severe thunderstorms brought widespread flooding to the country and he became known as the Minister for Floods.

With the hot weather predicted to continue for for another six weeks it certainly looks like Kent has seen a miniature version of the infamous 1976 summer.

Join the debate...
Comments |

Don't have an account? Please Register first!

The KM Group does not moderate comments. Please click here for our house rules.

People who post abusive comments about other users or those featured in articles will be banned.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.

 

Terms of Comments
We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules. If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here, email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk or call 01634 227989.

Follow us

Like Us on Facebook

Most popular

Kent Travel News

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More