Heatwave Britain: What it was like during record-breaking 1976 scorcher
Martin King recalls the record-breaking drought's effect on his Warwickshire countryside
It started with a massive late-June thunderstorm and ended with another on the August holiday Monday. In between much of the UK endured the longest drought and hottest summer on record.
It had been the first year where fields of oilseed rape became common and they had already brought their yellowness to a new rural palette. But that soon gave way to unrelenting brown as pastures withered and looked as if they would never recover.
Many gardeners had no need of mowers for at least a month. More significantly potatoes would not grow, wheatears would not become plump, and farmers and horse-owners had to use up winter hay stocks over the arid August - and worry about stocks for the winter ahead.
I even found a dead 70cm (28ins) pike in the barely running River Avon on its way to Stratford. Water shortages meant widespread water restrictions with standpipes deployed in the worst-hit areas of the UK as reservoirs emptied.
Meanwhile fire crews grew haggard chasing grass and woodland fires. As a young reporter I followed a Warwickshire crew into a copse outside Coventry. "If I tell you to run," said the fire chief, "then run like hell." I was bemused; it seemed only a small fire. Then the flames reached a 10m (30ft) pine. Wumph! It was fully ablaze in a second, its resin crackling and flaring. Wumph! Its neighbour went up, then another and another and we were all running like hell - the light wind fanned by the draft from the flames and spreading them astoundingly fast..
We'd seen film of Australian and US forest fires. This was on a lesser scale but its deceptive beginnings made it deadly nevertheless.
You become better adjusted to the heat, and to changing your lifestyle to cope - but watching the countryside and its economy shrivel was an enduring shock.
The most amazing memory, however, was the speed of nature's recovery after those late-August storms that broke the heatwave. Apples put on a late spurt, and so did some of the potato crop. Some canny farmers even hauled in an unprecedented late-September hay crop. None of it was as much as was needed but it was better than anyone feared.
That copse took longer to recover - but that brought an extra benefit: native broad-leaved species grew in place of the interloper pines. It was only natural.
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...