Days of endless sunshine, the summer of '76

Flares and Choppers, the Bay City Rollers and Brotherhood of Man. And a government minister being ordered by No. 10 to perform a rain dance. It must be the summer of 1976.

Trudy Green and Denise Rose, both 16, were pictured enjoying the sun by drawing in Walsall Arboretum
Trudy Green and Denise Rose, both 16, were pictured enjoying the sun by drawing in Walsall Arboretum

As temperatures soar, this summer will inevitably be compared to the unforgettable heatwave of 46 years ago. In truth, there is still a long way to go. There has been hotter weather since 1976. The record temperature up until now came on August 10, 2003, when the mercury tipped 38.5C (101.3F) at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent, and the warmest single month on record came in July, 2006.

But the thing that makes the summer of 76 so memorable is its sheer longevity – and of course the memorable soundtrack.

It was a wonderful time for youngsters, who would spend hours basking in the sun around areas such as Tettenhall Pool. Families queued for ages at attractions such as Dudley Zoo, where the polar bears and penguins must have found it a very strange experience indeed. The recently opened West Midland Safari Park at Bewdley introduced fencing around its enclosures so that visitors could open the windows of their cars.

Many teachers took their classes outdoors, with pupils at Bellan House School in Oswestry receiving their reading lesson at Cae Glas Park.

Denise Rose and Trudy Green, were both 16 when they were pictured drawing in the sunshine at Walsall Arboretum. Thirty years later, the pair recalled the summer. Denise said told how they spent most days on the rowing boats to keep cool.

"It was a fantastic time, endless days of freedom from school, sunbathing and enjoying day after day of sunshine," she said.

“The evening we would spend listening to Beacon 303, which launched that year, and planning our future.

“Sometimes we would have enough money for the bus fare into Walsall, but not for the return journey home to Bloxwich, and would walk back in the blistering heat of late afternoon. We never grumbled though, we were having too good a time."

Trudy added: “It was such a glorious summer, it just seemed to go on forever and ever.”

Skies were almost cloudless in the West Midlands, and some parts of the country had an average of more than 14 hours of bright sunshine each day over the period.

From June up until September, there was barely any rain, with parts of south-western England going 45 days without rainfall.

The River Severn was reduced to little more than a stream, and army Green Goddesses were on standby to support the fire service which had been overwhelmed with the forest fires sweeping the tinder-dry countryside and water rationing saw standpipes installed in some parts of the country. On August 31, the crowd at Lords broke out into spontaneous applause when rain interrupted play for 15 minutes – it was the first precipitation in London in more than six weeks.

It was also the summer that turned Birmingham MP Denis Howell into an overnight celebrity. Appointed minister for drought on August 24, Prime Minister Jim Callaghan bizarrely summoned him to Downing Street to perform a rain dance. Within five days of his appointment, the West Midlands received half an inch of rainfall. When the drought came to an end in September, he became known as the "minister for flooding".

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