Families are warned of deadly perils in the British garden

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LETHAL lawnmowers, flaming barbecues, poisonous plants and even a foreign invasion of warlike wasps will turn the supposedly safe haven of the English garden into a serious danger zone in coming weeks.

The innocent summer pleasure of being in the garden is fraught with hidden hazards, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Garden accidents, which kill 50 people and injure 500,000 more every year, peak in the summer, with the increased garden use during the longer, warmer days and sunny weekends.

Indeed, last week, Elaine Lancaster, 55, from Marple, in Stockport, Cheshire, was dis-covered dead on the lawn of her home. A police spokesman said she had been reconnecting an extension cable to her mower and had not switched off the electricity supply. She died instantly from a powerful electric shock. Electrocu-tion will claim an estimated 10 more garden victims before autumn sets in.

Neighbour Sidney Budd said: "It is a real tragedy. She would take advantage of any hours of daylight to be in her garden, which is superb." Ironically, Ms Lan-caster's death came shortly after the Department of Trade and Industry launched its `Don't Be Green Over Gardens' campaign, aimed at reducing the "appalling" toll of injuries.

Nigel Griffiths, Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, launched the campaign. He said: "I hope to persuade people to take extra care this summer and help reduce accidents and the pain and suffering they cause."

Particular emphasis was placed on the avoidable deaths of young children and toddlers, eight of whom drown every summer in ponds and pools. Research has shown that even the humblest of garden implements can be danger-ous. According to the Association of British Insurers, 2,000 people are injured every year by flower pots.

But for many, the greatest garden danger is the thuggish "euro-wasp". The wasp, which arrived in the UK in Britain in 1980 after a succession of mild winters, has gained a fearsome reputation for swarm attacks, in scenes reminiscent of horror films.

Last week, a four-year-old girl, Sophie Cousins, was playing in her parents' back garden in Weston-Super-Mare, when her puppy disturbed a wasps' nest. Within seconds, hundreds had attacked her, leaving her with 70 stings and, according to doctors, lucky to be alive.