It's been three weeks since it last rained in London. It might, just possibly, rain here on Saturday, but otherwise the drought is set to continue into next week as well. This is bad news to some but, given that I don't have a garden outside busily dying on me, I'm perfectly happy with the current lack of rainfall. No doubt we can all expect a hosepipe ban by the middle of next week, standpipes in the street by the middle of next month, water rationing by the middle of next year and the Sahara Desert encroaching across what used to be the English Channel by the middle of next century.
Britain's longest ever drought was recorded right here in London E3, exactly 110 years ago. 1893 brought an exceptional spring of heat, sunshine and lack of rain, with dry weather settling in during the first few days of March and lasting until early July. Mile End in the east end of London saw no measurable rainfall for more than two months, from 4th March to 15th May 1893. Those 73 consecutive dry days have never been equalled at any other time in any other place across the UK since weather records began. Meanwhile the ten driest towns in the country are also all to be found in south-east England (Thurrock, Sheerness and Felixstowe are the top three, followed by Dagenham, Tilbury, Southend, Colchester, Ipswich, Cambridge and Ely). This is because, as any geography student knows, by the time big grey rainclouds have blown eastwards all the way across the country from the Atlantic, they've normally dumped most of their load on south Wales instead. Perfect.
UK weather quick quiz Can you match the following UK weather records to the place where they happened?
1) Highest ever UK temperature (3 August 1990, 37.1°C): Chelsea, Chelmsford or Cheltenham?
2) Least ever sunshine (December 1890, no sunshine at all): Westminster, Weston-Super-Mare or Wick?
3) Most rainfall ever recorded in 2½ hours (14 August 1975, 159mm): Hampstead, Halifax or Harris (Western Isles)?
4) Highest ever December temperature (2 December 1948, 18.3°C): Achnashellach (NW Scotland) or Rickmansworth (Herts)?
5) Lowest mean December temperature: Achnashellach (NW Scotland) or Rickmansworth (Herts)?