Photos show Britons flocking to beaches, parks and Trafalgar Square fountain in 2022 and 1976

Britons this summer have flocked to beaches and parks in their millions to enjoy the hot weather, despite warnings from health chiefs about the unprecedented temperatures. 

The scenes at hotspots around the country echo the photographs that were taken during the famous ten-week heatwave of 1976, when temperatures reached 35.9C (96.6F) and the mercury remained above 32C (89.6F) for 15 consecutive days.  

Last week, Brighton beach in East Sussex was packed with sun-seekers as temperatures rose to beyond 40C (104F). In 1976, Britons in their thousands opted to absorb the sun’s rays on the same stretch of beach. 

Equally, the fountains at London‘s iconic Trafalgar Square have helped people to cool off both this summer and nearly 50 years ago. 

Photos taken this month show men, women and children taking an illicit dip in the off-limits water, or lying on the sides of the fountain to soak up the sun’s rays. Londoners in 1976 did the same, but in greater numbers.

Other images show how Londoners today and decades ago also enjoyed diving into Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, or sunbathing in green spots around the capital. 

And on Ayr beach near Glasgow, splashing about in the shallow waters on the beach remains as popular now as it was during Britain’s most famous summer. 

Sunbathers packed Brighton beach in East Sussex in 1976 as they desperately tried to cool off in scorching temperatures which lasted for weeks

Britons this summer have flocked to beaches and parks in their millions to enjoy the hot weather, despite warnings from health chiefs about the unprecedented temperatures. The scenes at hotspots around the country echo the photographs that were taken during the famous ten-week heatwave of 1976. Last week, Brighton beach in East Sussex was packed with sun-seekers as temperatures rose to beyond 40C (104F). In 1976, Britons in their thousands opted to absorb the sun’s rays on the same stretch of beach

Equally, the fountains at London’s iconic Trafalgar Square have helped people to cool off both this summer and nearly 50 years ago. Photos taken this month show men, women and children taking an illicit dip in the off-limits water, or lying on the sides of the fountain to soak up the sun’s rays. Londoners in 1976 did the same, but in greater numbers

On Ayr beach near Glasgow, splashing about in the shallow waters on the beach remains as popular now as it was during Britain’s most famous summer. Above:  Young women hold hands as they have fun on the beach in Ayr last week; a similar scene in 1976

Other images show how Londoners today and decades ago also enjoyed diving into Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake. Above: People wade in the Serpentine lake to cool off in Hyde Park, west London, on July 19; and in 1976

The fountains at Trafalgar Square provide a constant source of water for people to use to cool off when the weather gets hot. Above: Young people sit with their legs in the water at the Central London hotspot last week; and three women venture into the fountain in 1976 

Last week, families were pictured soaking up the sunshine on the beach at Lyme Regis in Dorset. In 1976, the beach was packed with sunbathers enjoying the high temperatures

Last week, this young man was seen sitting on the side of the fountain at Trafalgar Square with a t-shirt over his head. In 1976, the scenes were similar

Thousands of Britons have also taken to lidos around the country this summer to take advantage of the cooling waters in the extreme heat. Above: People enjoy the hot weather at Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge; and people try to keep cool at a lido in Birmingham in 1976

Last week and in 1976 people also flocked in their thousands to public parks. Above: A man sunbathes in the morning at Kensington Gardens, west London; a Londoner in the green space in 1976 uses a deck chair to do the same

London’s Victoria Embankment has also been a prime location for sun-seekers, both this summer and in 1976, as the above images show

This week, scores of people were pictured holding their phones aloft to document the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. In 1976, Britons used film cameras to do the same

Regent’s Park has also hosted Londoners this summer, as they look for somewhere to enjoy the sunshine. Above: A couple sit in the shade in the park last week; as a photo from 1976 shows Britons using deckchairs to soak up the sun’s rays in 1976

Now England faces the worst DROUGHT since 1976: Parched regions face hosepipe bans unless heavens open… as UK is set for another week of 25C sunshine

  • Parts of England could face a hosepipe ban and official drought in August if hot and dry weather continues  
  • UK’s National Drought Group will meet tomorrow to discuss whether measure could be brought in for areas 
  • It comes after months of below average rainfall for much of England, particularly southern and eastern areas
  • Unprecedented extreme 40C (104F) heat seen last week has also put heightened pressure on water supplies

By Mark Duell for MailOnline 

Parts of England could face a hosepipe ban and the declaration of an official drought next month if the hot weather continues with little rain, it emerged today as the spell of prolonged dry weather carries on.

The UK’s National Drought Group – a collection of government departments, water firms and environmental groups – will meet tomorrow to discuss a whether there could be an official drought in some areas in August.

The crunch meeting will aim to co-ordinate action to maintain water supplies and protect the environment during the dry weather, with the decision on calling a drought being dependent on rainfall over the coming weeks.

A drought would be jointly declared by the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – and it would the first one in the UK since 2018 when some hosepipe bans were brought in, The Mail+ reported.

It comes after months of below average rainfall for much of the country, particularly southern and eastern areas, and the unprecedented extreme 40C (104F) heat last week putting heightened pressure on water supplies.

The bed of the Woodhead reservoir in Derbyshire is photographed last Thursday as concerns mount over a possible drought

The bed of the Woodhead reservoir in Derbyshire is photographed last Thursday as concerns mount over a possible drought

A dry bank of a tributary to the Dowry Reservoir near Oldham in Greater Manchester last Tuesday during the very hot weather

A dry bank of a tributary to the Dowry Reservoir near Oldham in Greater Manchester last Tuesday during the very hot weather

A view of the dried bed of Llwyn-on Reservoir during a heatwave in the Taf Fawr valley in South Wales last Monday

A view of the dried bed of Llwyn-on Reservoir during a heatwave in the Taf Fawr valley in South Wales last Monday

People in parts of Kent including Canterbury, Ashford and Sevenoaks have already been told by South East Water to use water only for essential purposes as stocks dwindled following months of below-average rainfall.

The company – which supplies water to 2.3million people in the region – has seen its reservoirs drop from around 80 per cent full to as low as 60 per cent in a month, while demand soars by a fifth on normal levels.

How Britain has been left parched by a lack of rain 

Some parts of the UK have seen barely a drop of rain since the start of July, spelling problems for farmers after the first half of 2022 was one of the driest on record – and raising the prospect of higher food prices.

Reservoirs have been particularly low in Yorkshire, where five million customers have been warned of a possible hosepipe ban – while others in the Peak District have appeared to be down to little more than a trickle.

Some rivers are also running dry, with water levels on the Waveney in Suffolk ‘exceptionally low’ at around 30 per cent of normal for the time of year, according to the Environment Agency.

East Anglia as a whole has seen two-thirds of its average rainfall over the first half of the year – the driest January to June period since 1996, and the 11th driest since records began in 1836.

Meanwhile Wales – normally the wettest part of Britain – also saw far less rainfall than normal between March and June, with the River Teifi in Ceredigion at record low levels.

Fishing has been banned in the rivers Wye and Usk, with exceptionally warm water already killing fish.

West Sussex, the Isle of Wight and the City of London all recorded just 0.1mm (0.003ins) of rain between July 1 and July 12, according to the Met Office.

Across England, average rainfall in the first 12 days of the month was 5.1mm (0.2ins), less than a tenth of the average for the whole of July, 66.48mm (2.62ins).

Wales was also far drier than normal, with 8.8mm (0.35ins) of rain compared to an average across July of 98.56mm (3.88ins).

Water companies have been reporting unprecedented peak demand, with people encouraged to ‘carefully consider’ their water usage amid warnings of a drought following months of below-average rainfall.

A spokesman for industry association Water UK told MailOnline today: ‘Water companies are continuing to see extremely high demand and are urging everyone to carefully consider the amount of water they are using at this time. 

‘The ongoing dry, warm weather in much of the country follows the driest winter and spring since the 1970s, leading to reduced river flows that need to be protected.

‘Water companies have plans in place to manage water resources and safeguard the environment and are doing everything they can, including working closely with government and regulators, to minimise the need for any restrictions.’

While the weather will remain dry this week, Britons will enjoy a far more pleasant run of warm conditions with temperatures of 25C (77F) – but people were urged to help prevent fires in the scorching weather after a major incident in Surrey due to a large blaze.

The Met Office said the mercury will rise towards the end of this week but will likely remain below the thresholds for any official heatwave – a figure which is 28C (82F) in London and slightly lower elsewhere.

And temperatures are not expected to get anywhere near the levels seen during the extreme heat only six days ago when the hottest day on record for Britain was recorded in Lincolnshire at 40.3C (104.5F) last Tuesday.

Temperatures this week will likely peak in southern and eastern England with forecasts of 25C (77F) today, 22C (72F) tomorrow and Wednesday, 23C (73F) on Thursday and 24C (75F) on Friday.

Met Office meteorologist Stephen Dixon told MailOnline today: ‘Much of this week will feel markedly cooler than the recent extreme temperatures the UK experienced, with continued chances of interludes of light showers for much of the UK through the week.

‘However, between the short spells of showers, the southeast will see the highest temperatures, generally around the mid-20s Celsius.

‘As we head into the weekend, it’ll get gradually warmer – barring the far northwest, although temperatures will likely remain below the thresholds for any official heatwave to be declared, and there will be a continued risk of some showers, especially on Saturday.

‘Early next week is obviously open to some uncertainty this far away, but there are some signals for some above average temperatures in the south in particular, although more details on this will be determined nearer the time.’

It comes after major blaze in Surrey yesterday where at least eight hectares of land were affected at Hankley Common, which has previously been used to film part of the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall.

Flames and large plumes of white and grey smoke were billowing across the common and spreading over West London, with a major incident declared before being stood down at about 6.40pm yesterday.

People were asked to avoid the area as the wildfire continued to burn. The cause of the blaze is unknown, but firefighters urged people to ‘pack a picnic instead of a BBQ’ and dispose of cigarettes and litter correctly.

Forecasters said this week would see a mixed start of conditions with low pressure continuing to give changeable weather today amid a mixture of bright spells, scattered showers and north-westerly winds.

There will then be an improvement from tomorrow, with low pressure gradually pulling away to the east and a ridge of high pressure edging closer from the west with sunshine, showers and winds gradually easing.

High pressure will then begin to dominate from Wednesday, with sunny spells after a cool start and any showers isolated. There will then be plenty of fine weather around from Thursday with some sunshine.

There could still be a few showers cropping up by the afternoon, but most areas will then be dry on Friday with some warm spells of sunshine – although it will turn cloudier in the far North West with some rain arriving.

Think it’s hot now? How Britain roasted in TEN-WEEK heatwave during summer of ’76: Temperatures hit 36C, criminal trials came to a halt, towns were plagued by swarms of insects and water was rationed as country faced worst drought in 250 years

  • In the summer of 1976, there were 15 consecutive days that saw temperatures of 89.6F (32C) in the UK
  • Overall, there were ten weeks of blazing heat that saw widespread drought and mass standpipe use 
  • The murder trial of the notorious ‘Black Panther’ had to be paused after woman in public gallery collapsed
  • The heat also caused ladybird invasion with numbers so high they were often unavoidably crushed underfoot 

By Harry Howard, History Correspondent for MailOnline 

Wildfires have raged, speed restrictions have been imposed on some railway lines and hospitals have already declared ‘critical incidents’.

The hot weather in Britain this summer is set to peak next week, when the mercury could top 39C (102F) in London.

The current non-stop sunshine has evoked memories of the summer of 1976, when there were 15 consecutive days that saw temperatures of 89.6F (32C) somewhere in the UK. 

Overall, there were ten weeks of blazing heat that saw widespread drought, mass standpipe use, and even the pausing of the murder trial of the notorious ‘Black Panther’, after a woman suffering from ‘heat exhaustion’ collapsed.

During a First Division football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa, City player collectively lost four stone in weight, prompting the team’s captain to call for an end to ‘summer soccer’.

At that year’s Wimbledon tennis championships, umpires were allowed to remove their jackets for the first time in living memory, whilst major roads were littered with broken-down cars that had overheated. 

The extreme weather also caused an increase in the number of 999 callouts to domestic disturbances, as tempers buckled due to the heat. 

The current non-stop sunshine has evoked memories of the summer of 1976, when there were 15 consecutive days that saw temperatures of 89.6F (32C) somewhere in the UK. Above: Bikini-clad women are seen enjoying the hot weather in 1976

The current non-stop sunshine has evoked memories of the summer of 1976, when there were 15 consecutive days that saw temperatures of 89.6F (32C) somewhere in the UK. Above: Bikini-clad women are seen enjoying the hot weather in 1976

Overall, there were ten weeks of blazing heat that saw widespread drought and mass standpipe use. Above: Residents collect water from a standpipe in Northam, Devon

Overall, there were ten weeks of blazing heat that saw widespread drought and mass standpipe use. Above: Residents collect water from a standpipe in Northam, Devon

A public information notice warning about the drought, erected by the road in the Bridport area of Dorset. The drought was worsened by the fact that there had been a lack of rainfall the previous summer

A public information notice warning about the drought, erected by the road in the Bridport area of Dorset. The drought was worsened by the fact that there had been a lack of rainfall the previous summer

The summer of 1976 was caused in part by very hot air that had originated in the Mediterranean. The warm weather and lack of rain began on June 23 and did not abate for more than a month. 

The highest temperature recorded in the summer was on July 3, when the mercury hit 96.6F (35.9C) in Cheltenham. The average maximum daily temperature was 67.8F (19.9C). 

Photographs from the period show the impact that the heat had. 

In one, residents were seen queuing with buckets to get water from stand pipes in Devon.

In another a model was photographed sunning herself on the dried-up basin of Pitsford reservoir.

Another showed some of the thousands of people who flocked to Brighton beach in East Sussex to sunbathe. 

Like with this year’s heat, the weather caused wildfires around the country, including in Epping Forest in Essex and Bellerby Moor in North Yorkshire. 

Back then, knowledge about the dangers posed by the sun’s rays to people’s skin was not as extensive as it is now. It meant Britons took fewer precautions to protect themselves. 

The Daily Mail's coverage of the extreme heat in 1976 mentioned how cars were overheating and there was little sign of an abating of temperatures

The Daily Mail’s coverage of the extreme heat in 1976 mentioned how cars were overheating and there was little sign of an abating of temperatures

At the Wimbledon championships, where Bjorn Borg would go on to win the first of his five titles and a young Sue Barker made it to the quarter-finals, 400 people were treated for ‘exposure to the sun’ in a single day. 

The conditions were what prompted officials to relax the strict dress code for umpires for the first time since the tournament began nearly 100 years earlier. 

The trial of kidnapper Donald Nielson, who was nicknamed the Black Panther and was accused of murdering a 17-year-old woman, had to be suspended at Oxford Crown Court when a woman in the public gallery fainted

The trial of kidnapper Donald Nielson, who was nicknamed the Black Panther and was accused of murdering a 17-year-old woman, had to be suspended at Oxford Crown Court when a woman in the public gallery fainted

In the House of Commons, bar staff walked out in protest when officials refused to allow a similar relaxation in costume rules that would have allowed them to remove their traditional green jackets. 

Above them, the Big Ben clock on what is now named the Elizabeth Tower suffered what was its only major breakdown due to metal fatigue caused by the heat. It took three weeks for the clock to be fixed.

Elsewhere, dozens of people desperately dived into the water of Trafalgar Square’s fountains in an attempt to cool off.  

As well as the weight loss seen in the football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa, the Metropolitan Police dealt with 600 more daily calls to domestic disturbances than normal.

As the drought worsened, a strict hosepipe ban was imposed in most places and residents were encouraged to alert the authorities if their neighbours used any water unnecessarily. 

Showers instead of baths were encouraged, with the latter only allowed if there was no more than 5inches of water in the tub.  

The drought was worsened by the fact that there had been a lack of rainfall the previous summer, meaning reservoirs and rivers were already low. 

The lack of water prompted fires to break out. As well as blazes in Essex and Yorkshire, 300 residents in an old people’s home in the New Forest had to be evacuated when a wild fire took hold nearby.

Farmers struggled too as thousands of acres of crops failed, prompting concerns that there would be huge increases in the price of food. 

Street traders in London’s Hyde Park were slammed for charging the grossly inflated price of 40p for a bottle of Coca-Cola, even though they were costing 22p in the Dorchester Hotel across the road. 

A model is photographed sunning herself on the dried-up basin of Pitsford reservoir in Northamptonshire during the 1976 heatwave

A model is photographed sunning herself on the dried-up basin of Pitsford reservoir in Northamptonshire during the 1976 heatwave

In similar scenes, sunseekers stripped down to their swimwear in 1976 to make the most of the blazing heat

In similar scenes, sunseekers stripped down to their swimwear in 1976 to make the most of the blazing heat

Firefighters putting out a forest fire in Epping Forest, near London, on July 6, 1976. Britain’s worst drought for 250 years led to frequent outbreaks of fire around the country

At the Wimbledon championships, where Bjorn Borg (above) would go on to win the first of his five titles and a young Sue Barker made it to the quarter-finals, 400 people were treated for 'exposure to the sun' in a single day

At the Wimbledon championships, where Bjorn Borg (above) would go on to win the first of his five titles and a young Sue Barker made it to the quarter-finals, 400 people were treated for ‘exposure to the sun’ in a single day

Employees back in 1976 took their work outdoors and swapped the office desk for a fountain in a bid to avoid overheating

Employees back in 1976 took their work outdoors and swapped the office desk for a fountain in a bid to avoid overheating

The searingly hot weather, from mid-June to the end of August was more prolonged than any within living memory

The searingly hot weather, from mid-June to the end of August was more prolonged than any within living memory

Sunbathers packed Brighton beach in East Sussex in 1976 as they desperately tried to cool off in scorching temperatures which lasted for weeks

Sunbathers packed Brighton beach in East Sussex in 1976 as they desperately tried to cool off in scorching temperatures which lasted for weeks

Children are seen playing in the Trafalgar Square fountain to try to cool down during the 1976 heatwave

Children are seen playing in the Trafalgar Square fountain to try to cool down during the 1976 heatwave

Two young women are seen cooling off with the help of an outdoor shower as temperatures soared during the ten-week heatwave

Two young women are seen cooling off with the help of an outdoor shower as temperatures soared during the ten-week heatwave

C Pillbeam, of the Metropolitan Water Board, turns down the water pressure at a turncock outside St Paul's Cathedral, London on August 18, 1976. The mains water pressure was reduced by a quarter to conserve water supplies

C Pillbeam, of the Metropolitan Water Board, turns down the water pressure at a turncock outside St Paul’s Cathedral, London on August 18, 1976. The mains water pressure was reduced by a quarter to conserve water supplies

The weather also caused problems for couples, prompting a newspaper to give them advice on how to keep cool in the bedroom.

The drought became so severe that the then Labour government, led by James Callaghan, considered getting water by tanker from Norway. 

Legislation – the Drought Act of 1976 – was passed in rapid time to both impose a nationwide hosepipe ban and to grant the government emergency powers that allowed them to reduce or turn off water supplies to industry. 

The then sports minister, Dennis Howell, was made the new minister for drought.  

In Wales, the mains water supply was switched off for up to 17 hours a day. 

Each standpipe – an outdoor tap installed on streets – that people had to use was shared between 20 homes. 

By late August, there were only 90 days’ of water supply left in London. In Leeds, the figure was 80. 

It prompted t-shirt manufacturers to start selling clothes bearing the slogan: ‘Save Water – Bath With A Friend’. 

Thanks to the dry reservoirs and sections of rivers, fish died in their thousands, whilst birds died of botulism – a disease caused by stagnant, de-oxygenated water. 

The heat also caused an invasion of ladybirds, with their numbers so high that they were often unavoidably crushed underfoot.  

The heat on stricken trains on the London Underground became so severe that people took to smashing train windows.  

The trial of kidnapper Donald Nielson, who was nicknamed the Black Panther and was accused of murdering a 17-year-old woman, had to be suspended at Oxford Crown Court when a woman in the public gallery feinted. 

However, a week after Mr Howell’s appointment in late August as minister for drought, the rain finally arrived and the hottest and driest days of Britain’s most famous summer were finally at an end.  It had been the worst drought in England in 250 years. 

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