CHRISTMAS baubles have already gone on sale – despite baking in Britain during a record summer.
Stuffy shoppers were stunned to see Christmas items piled 6ft high at a garden center yesterday – as millions of us are under or facing garden hose bans.
Despite temperatures reaching 40.3°C (104°F) this summer and with 142 days until December 25, the center already has signs pointing to the ‘North Pole’ outside.
Summerhill Garden Center in Billericay, Essex, whips up festive garlands, baubles, nutcrackers, Christmas trees and letterboxes.
The Christmas sale is one of the first we’ve seen – following the UK’s driest July for 111 years and with no sign of significant rainfall on the horizon.
Shoppers – smothered in 80% humidity this week – think they are crackers, especially with the Environment Agency set to declare an official drought.
Jo Huggins, 38, mum-of-two, said: “We are going to Spain next week and they said it could reach 40C.
“It’s the height of the summer — I can’t think of Christmas yet.
“I just want to lie on a deckchair by the pool.
“The craziest thing is that people have to buy it, otherwise they wouldn’t sell it.”
Summerhill Christmas Supervisor Lauren Wealthall, 27, said: ‘We do Christmas so big here so we have to start early. Our Christmas department is one of the largest in the region. We have already sold a lot of things.
“People know it always sells out so fast they have to act fast. It sounds crazy considering how hot it was, but our customers love Christmas and they want to prepare.
But even Britain’s oldest, Santa Ray Hulse, 77, was unimpressed. The Santa Claus veteran, who has been bringing holiday cheer to children since 1962, said: “I’m the biggest Christmas fan out there, but having decorations on sale in August is absolutely ridiculous.
“It’s very hot and we’re facing a drought – it’s time for ice cream and beer gardens, not mistletoe and holly.”
Water bosses warned reservoirs were at critical levels, with river flows down a quarter from normal levels for this time of year.
The National Drought Group held a crisis meeting this week when it stopped declaring a national state of drought in England and Wales.
However, watering bans have been announced for Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, affecting three million people.
South East Water even encouraged customers to report neighbors seen using a hose or sprinkler during the ban.
A further 17 million people could soon be affected as Thames Water and South West Water warn they will have to impose restrictions.
It would affect 15 million people in London and the Thames Valley and around two million in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.
I’m the biggest Christmas fan out there but having decorations on sale in August is absolutely ridiculous.
Ray Hulse, 77
Last month was the driest July for East Anglia, the south east and southern England since records began in 1836.
Forecasters have previously said they don’t expect August to be this hot – but it’s still expected to be hot and dry, which will worsen water shortages.
Parched parts of southern and eastern England are expected to see temperatures climb back into the 30s next week.
According to forecasters, it could be a fortnight before the return of milder and more changeable weather.
The lack of rainfall has been compounded by supply issues – with the revelation that the Thames Water desalination plant in East London is currently out of service.
It was built to supply up to 100 million liters of water per day.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of The Rivers Trust, said: “Every year we come to this perilous position and at the last possible moment, when the rivers are at their lowest, we discuss temporary bans on use. at the last minute causes people to rush to wash their car and fill their paddling pool, wash the dog, and cause a surge in demand before the ban takes effect.
“It should happen before the rivers are in a desperate state and there is not enough water for wildlife.”
The scorching weather also continued for holidaymakers across mainland Europe, with Madrid and Bordeaux hitting 38C (100.4F), Rome and Berlin hitting 37C (98.6F) and Paris and Mallorca hitting 36C (96.8F).
Portugal and Spain fear losing millions on avocado and olive crops as they together face their driest conditions in 1,200 years.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials sent workers to the desert state house yesterday as temperatures there hit a high of 50C (122F).
Thousands of gallons of water were wasted yesterday in another major leak during the UK’s worst drought since 1976.
Firefighters used wooden planks to prevent homes from being flooded and traffic came to a halt in Willesden, north London.
A witness said: ‘It’s a main thoroughfare so it was a bit of a nightmare.
UK water regulator Ofwat says a quarter of water companies are not meeting their own targets to limit leaks. Suppliers are said to waste enough water to fill 1,200 Olympic size swimming pools every day.