UK heatwave 2018: The winners and losers

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This summer is set to be one of the hottest - and driest - on record. With no substantial rain since May and temperatures tipping past 30C (86F), a hosepipe ban looms as the heatwave continues to stretch ahead of us in an untypically British manner.

There are, as with most things in life, pros and cons to the hot weather.

Watering can salespeople enjoy a boom in trade, their counterparts in the electric blanket department see a slump. Butterflies bask in the long hot days, unaware of the jeopardy faced by the next generation of caterpillars.

Here are some of the winners and losers of the season.

On the rails

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Overcrowded rail services are rarely improved by hot weather, with both practical and personal hurdles to overcome. Heat can buckle tracks and cause delays, while your fellow-traveller's underarm aroma could be escalated by the oven-like atmosphere of the quiet carriage.

On the other hand, business is booming at heritage railways. Chuffing along with the wind (and soot) in your hair while hoping to spot Jenny Agutter waving her red petticoat is something that can be enjoyed in soaring temperatures.

For example, the Severn Valley Railway is expecting bumper numbers this weekend, and has added new dates for its Wizard Express, while Telford Steam Railway is preparing for 500 people to turn up on Sunday.

Shouting "Oh, my daddy! My daddy!" is optional.

Purveyors of outdoor living

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Try getting a garden parasol for a reasonable price and you'll be up against it - the cheapest ranges at Ikea, Homebase and B&Q are all low on stock.

Sales of barbecues and paddling pools also soared with the temperatures - so once again there is limited availability.

People in Birmingham who want to get their hot little mitts on an Argos paddling pool will have to travel to Warwick to get one, while those in Bradford would have to go to Clitheroe to get theirs.

Humans aren't the only creatures who should slip-slop-slap.

Cats, especially white ones, should have sun cream put on their ears, and horses' noses are also at risk. Prevent premature pork crackling by applying sunscreen to pet pigs.

Dogs, always eager to go for walks, lollop about and get overexcited, should be exercised in the early morning or late evening when it's a bit cooler for them.

The RSPCA suggests letting them splash about in a paddling pool. The Warwick and Clitheroe branches of Argos should therefore stand by to repel hordes of hot hounds.

Happy holidaymakers

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People already booked in for a summer break in the UK have done well - they have the high temperatures of "abroad" without the need to transfer their shampoos and sun creams into 100ml bottles wedged into a freezer bag.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents, two thirds of us have planned a British break for this year.

Patricia Yates, the director of Visit Britain, said the hot weather acts as a "timely reminder" to people who are "making a late call on where to go on holiday".

Many campsites are fully booked but determined searchers will be able to find late-availability pitches.

Those who eschewed Margate for Malaga will not only have to limit their luggage but might find their homebody neighbours have a better tan than them when they return.


The very hungry caterpillars

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Butterflies may be flitting about having fun in the sun but caterpillars are having a terrible time. The plants they need are wilting, and a lack of food might mean they are unable to pupate and survive over the winter.

A comparison can be made with the long hot summer of 1976 - research by the University of York suggests that summer was the worst extreme event to affect butterflies and moths since detailed records began.

The heat, coupled with a sustained drought, caused numbers to plummet across at least 50 different species which never fully recovered.

Image source, Aylesbury police
Image caption,
There's happy paddling for ducks in Aylesbury

Other losers from the hot weather include badgers and hedgehogs, which find it harder to dig up worms as the ground hardens and worms burrow deeper for an easier passage and to find moisture.

And spare a thought for ducks - police from Aylesbury did. They filled two paddling pools for the happy quackers. #Savetheducks.

The Grinch begins early

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Christmas trees are unlikely to be on many minds at the moment, but farmers say there could be a price hike this yuletide season.

The heatwave is causing the festive firs to wither and go brown - and some are even dying in the hot weather.

It's the smaller - and therefore cheaper - trees that are the most affected, as older and bigger ones have deeper roots with which to reach water.

People with a pea-ssimistic outlook also warn that Christmas dinner may be affected.

Pea crops are suffering as the plants overexert themselves searching for water and the hot weather kills them before they reach maturity. Marrowfat and split green varieties are the most widely affected, according to the British Edible Pulses Association.

It's swings and roundabouts though - as the weather is proving good for lentil crops. Traditionally grown in India and North Africa, the heatwave has created good growing conditions in the UK this year.

Wildlife winners

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Hot weather makes ants more active - bad news for those of us fed up of being nipped by the likes of the already rampant horsefly.

But it's good news for creatures like the green woodpecker, which enjoys an ant or ten on its summer menu.

It's also good weather for lavender farmers, as it is a Mediterranean plant and requires a similar climate to thrive.

The Provence region of France is where most lavender is commercially grown, but this summer the Cotswolds and Kent may be giving it a run for its money.

And lavender sachets at the ready - known for its soporific qualities, it may help you drop off to sleep on these sultry (sweaty) summer nights.

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