THE DRIEST summer in 50 years has had a catastrophic impact on wildlife in South Warwickshire.
While the area has not officially been given “drought” status by the National Drought Group, the lack of rain as a result of two heatwaves and little rainfall in the last few months has negatively effected the local environment and its inhabitants.
Lush green fields have become sun scorched and barren, leaving grazing animals with no grass to eat, as well as posing a fire risk. Water in lakes and rivers is at very low levels, leading to some tragic consequences.
Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary (FARS) in Wolverton, home to some 450 animals, says it is reaching ‘crisis point’.
The farm’s 60 acres of land have turned dry and dusty – meaning the sanctuary has been forced to supplement fresh grass for hay. It has had to nearly double its order to 40 bales a week – amounting to some £1,200.
This comes on top of other financial pressures including food shortages and broken equipment.
During the heatwave it has also had to install fans in the barn, buy cool jackets for some of the elderly animals and volunteers and staff have been working overtime keeping the sheep doused with cool water.
Carole Webb, who founded FARS some 30 years ago, said they are in a desperate situation.
“The heat turned our fields brown and dusty within matter of weeks. We have never known the land to be this dry and with over 400 rescued sheep to feed, this is becoming a terrible worry. We simply don’t have the funds to supplement fresh grass for hay.”
Fish are dying in Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields Lake.
Officers from Warwick District Council (WDC) explored every option available to try and save the fish including trying to aerate the water using the traditional method of a water pump but the water levels were too low.
The council was advised relocating the fish would be too difficult to carry out due to the lake’s current low level, and the unlikelihood of the fish surviving the journey in the extreme temperatures.
In the end, WDC opted to add water to the lake from the mains as a temporary measure but were instructed by Severn Trent to cease due to water restrictions.
A WDC spokesperson said: “WDC understands how distressing this situation is for members of the public. It has been a very sad few days for council officers and contractors who have been dealing with this incident.”
Another consequence of drought is fire. Firefighters, and farmers, spent nine hours fighting a fire on farmland at Abbots Marston near Alcester during a period Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service said has been one of its busiest on record.
Stratford-based insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers to take maximum precautions against fire on their farms.
The insurer revealed that last year farm fires cost £97million and predicted this year the cost would be even higher.
NFU spokesperson Evita van Gestel said: “Dusty, tinder dry conditions combined with hot moving parts, lots of electrical wiring and a tank full of diesel provide everything that is needed to turn a spark into a violent fire.
“Not only can this result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of agricultural machinery, but it can also damage or destroy nearby crops and buildings and disrupt harvest at a time when farmers can least afford it.
“Most importantly, the current conditions mean a fire can quickly become a raging blaze which endangers lives.”