The sun has got his hat on... or not

Busy Blackpool on the run up to August Bank Holiday weekend. On the beach. / crowds / holidaymakers / sunny / view  / Central Pier  PIC BY ROB LOCK
Busy Blackpool on the run up to August Bank Holiday weekend. On the beach. / crowds / holidaymakers / sunny / view / Central Pier PIC BY ROB LOCK
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Take a good long look at this picture of Blackpool beach in the run up to the August bank holiday.

Donkeys on the sand, sunbathers – it’s like the good old days of the classic resort.

You can bank on the weather usually being bad at bank holidays.

Still, the Golden Mile is doing a roaring trade in disposable macs and transparent brollies.

And while the Model Village is opening over winter weekends to help make up for lost ground after the summer proved such a wash-out – all-weather attractions such as Blackpool Tower, Tussauds, SeaLife and Sandcastle Waterpark are packing them in.

But what’s with this schizoid summer of ours?

Just two days after our balmy beach picture was taken, things had gone barmy again.

At Bispham, residents of Hastings Avenue were fighting their own battle.

They watched in trepidation as flood waters rose to lap the boundaries of their properties.

It was the same story in flood prone zones of the Fylde.

This has been the summer when the rains came – and stayed. The wettest on record for a century. The summer when the Olympic torch came to Blackpool and was doused by wind and rain.

It’s the summer when rain stopped play at more sporting fixtures than you can shake a racket at.

Enterprising staff at the Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes even turned one particularly tenacious puddle into a duck pond, complete with rubber ducks. It made national headlines.

It’s the summer when Sir Eton John was almost blown off the stage of the brand new Tower Festival Headland promenade concert area – having battled the elements from the start.

Fortunately, the rains eased for Illuminations Switch-On night. Just as clouds lifted over London in time to present both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

But now they look like moving north in time to drown out the autumn too.

National forecasters warn the perfect storm could be heading our way, born of the alliance of tropical storm Leslie and Hurricane Michael. Gales are tipped to strike Thursday, with wind speeds in the mid-70s.

Hurricanes cause widespread devastation elsewhere. By the time they strike Britain they’re downgraded – to gales which cause havoc and move on.

The Met Office has yet to issue any severe weather warnings, but amateur forecaster John Jameson, from St Annes, reckons the worse is yet to come. John bases his forecast on observations of flora and fauna, leaf fall, and birds poised for earlier migration. He’s also concerned about the bee population. He adds: “They have been beset by problems in recent years, disease, pesticides, loss of habitat, but the weather is a factor too. The impact upon the growing season has left bees struggling.”

Much the same goes for farmers. The rural economy is taking a hammering.

Rain put the skids under the opening night of the national tractor pull championships at Great Eccleston last month.

Singleton Maize Maze opened with the maize a fraction of its usual height – it’s flourished since, but farmer David Loftus, of Mount Farm, admits: “It’s been an awful summer, and the maze is the least of it. This is still a working farm. The maize is here because it’s animal feed. We decided to make it work for us while it was growing for the cattle.”

The Dairy Coalition has just drawn up a 10-point plan to provide ailing dairy farmers with a sustainable future, after price cuts imposed by retailers and processors left many farmers being paid significantly less for their milk than it was costing them to produce it.

Lytham dairy farmer Andrew Pemberton says the heavy rain flooded farmland, led to inadequate grazing, and lack of sileage to tide his 150 milk cows over winter.

He’s having to fork out on supplementary feed. Andrew has urged the Environment Agency to keep on top of pumping out excess flood water and dredge a drainage system provided about 150 years ago by the local landed gentry.

“The weather’s still doing its worse,” he adds. “It’s like grazing on a sponge.”

However, Marketing Blackpool managing director Natalie Wyatt remains sunny spirited. She says: “Bad weather brings out the bulldog spirit in Brits. They go out to play come what may. And Blackpool’s the ultimate all-weather resort.”

Britain’s washout summer has been blamed on melting Arctic sea ice, as forecasters warn torrential downpours will continue. The Met Office attributes the rain to “natural variability”, and jet streams of fast moving wind, further south than usual, causing blankets of low pressure.