So dry even the water meadows have dried out

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THE past three months have seen the lowest autumn rainfall in Bury St Edmunds for years.

Even Bury’s water meadows are dry, when they are usually flooded at this time of year.

Bury weather recorder Alan Messem said: “2011 must have been the first, probably since 1959, when September, October and November have all been consecutively below average.”

His records show the three months’ rainfall this year was only 74.5mm which is 43 per cent down on the average.

It fell over only 12 days, instead of the average for the period of 29 wet days. The previous lowest he has recorded for the period was 111mm in 1997.

For November he recorded only 25.8mm, which was the lowest since 2008. November 3 was the wettest day in November since 2004, with 18.3mm, but only 5mm more fell in the next 25 days.

He added that rainfall for the 12 months to November 30 was 444mm, which was the lowest for 12 months since July 1995 to June 1996.

In addition, according to the Weather Channel, the maximum temperatures for West Suffolk in November ranged from nine to 18C, averaging 15.7C instead of the normal 8C.

The results are obvious even close to Bury’s town centre.

Green Party councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer said: “Having just walked in Water Meadows, there’s no water in winter! None in the ponds at Saxon Gate, either. It must be wiping out wildlife: newts, water voles etc.”

But Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s water for wildlife officer Penny Hemphill said we do not need to worry about wildlife yet.

“It’s not going to have a massive effect on species, such as water voles and amphibians, because they remain inactive at this time of year,” she said. “The problem will be if we don’t get rain through the winter and the water levels aren’t restored.”

She regularly surveys water voles in the Water Meadows and said: “I’ve never seen so few as this year because the ditches have been so dry.”

But she said the voles had moved into the main rivers, which were still flowing, and should return when drought-hit habitats become wet again.

The trust can control water levels on its major wetland reserves, as can the RSPB at Lakenheath Fen.