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Drought hits St George's Day celebrations
DROUGHT-HIT villagers fear Oxfordshire’s lack of rainfall will put a halt to their traditional St George’s Day celebrations.
These pictures show how dramatically the dry weather has hit the county.
In West Hagbourne, near Didcot, the village pond has dried up completely – revealing the cracked pond bed.
It has left villagers trying to find an alternative plan for the dragon they traditionally float on the water for St George’s Day.
Parish councillor Valerie Brownsword, of Manor Close, said: “The drought has left the village pond completely dry.
“The pond is right next to Manor Farm so the ducks have probably gone back to the farm.
“But there’s no chance of floating the dragon there this year, so it might get put in the mud instead.
“The pond has been dry for several months. We have been here for 22 years and it has never been dry for as long as this before.”
Each year, residents make dragons and place them in different locations throughout the village to celebrate St George’s Day on Monday.
They are also making a point about the village being “swamped” by more than 3,000 new homes being built on the nearby Great Western Park.
Over the next fortnight, the dragons will be judged by members of the village association and a winner chosen.
Mrs Brownsword’s husband Malcolm added: “The pond did dry up about five years ago but not for such a long time.”
Betty Kendrick, who is part of the village association running the dragon competition, said fellow villager Mike Parker usually put the big dragon on the pond.
She said: “I don’t know what he’s going to do because we have no water in it – it’s completely dry which is a shame.
“Perhaps he will put the dragon somewhere else.”
Rain on Monday night failed to fill the pond but more rain is expected in the region today with the Met Office forecasting heavy rain or showers.
A hosepipe ban affecting about 20 million customers was introduced earlier this month by seven water authorities including Thames Watter.
People who flout the ban, which follows one of the driest two-year periods on record, face fines of up to £1,000.
Thames Water bosses say the ban could extend into the autumn.
Since March 2010, the region has had 35cm less rain than normal, and Environment Agency bosses warned last month that some ponds and streams would dry up.
At the weekend, another 17 counties were declared drought zones, including Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.