Peterborough farmers and park-keepers praying for rain after mini heatwave

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February
A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

As more unpredictable spring weather takes over from the mini heat-wave seen last week, a number of people will be praying for rain this month.

Farmer Stephen Briggs, who runs a cereal, vegetables and fruit farm and the Harvest Barn Shop in Farcet, said the warm weather had the potential to cause problems for other agricultural workers in the region.

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

He said: “There is an upside to the warm weather, in that people can go out and plant their crops earlier, and get started ahead of the spring.

“However, for fruit and vegetable growers, there is now the added risk of pests and diseases on crops.

“For livestock farmers it is a major problem.

“There was a low food stock for animals already as a result of the drought last summer.

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

“If we have a dry spring - and we have not had much rain over the past few months at all there could be severe implications for everyone..

“We really need rain by the end of March.”

Stephen said farmers were now trying to plan for warmer conditions in the future.

He said: “Farmers are very resilient, and have to deal with a lot of change.

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

“But with climate change and Brexit bringing so much change, we are having to be more prepared than ever.

“We work on cycles that can last years - it can be five years from planting a fruit tree before you get anything - so it is very challenging times at the moment. We don’t know what Brexit will bring, so we are all thinking of different ways to carry on - that’s why I opened the shop. Other people are looking at growing different crops to what we would normally grow here. There is a lot of uncertainty.”

The warm weather has also had a big impact at Ferry Meadows - where compared to last year they have had a big rise in attendance - but the heat could have a detrimental impact on wildlife.

A spokeswoman said: “This drought and unseasonably high temperatures are having a significant impact on the park. On one hand it’s positive; we have had one of the busiest February half terms in recent memory, with families out and about in the park, enjoying the outdoors and even having the odd ice-cream and picnic. It also means we are seeing an early burst of colour with aconites, snow drops and crocuses appearing early. We are also seeing an early emergence of insects, waking from hibernation; bumble bees, honey bees and a number of different butterfly species, like the peacock butterfly, have all been seen on the wing.

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

A year after the Beast from the East, Peterborough had record temperatures this February

“However, after such a long sleep these insects will be hungry, and with so little nectar about they will struggle. If we have a sudden cold snap they will struggle even more, with a long spell of severe frost enough to kill off these early risers and the beautiful early blossoms we are seeing. Even though it looks full, the River Nene, which runs through the heart of Ferry Meadows, is only at 15% of its flow for this time of year. If the warm weather, and particularly the lack of rainfall continue, then we could start to see drought conditions, normally experienced in the summer, starting months earlier than normal.”