Racing cancelled as Somerset gets drought warning

Somerset County Gazette: Taunton Racecourse groundsmen Adam Meeds, left, and Lee Noonan examine the dry ground Taunton Racecourse groundsmen Adam Meeds, left, and Lee Noonan examine the dry ground

Taunton Racecourse is counting the cost of a dry winter as a possible drought approaches.

The Corfe venue has transferred next Thursday’s final meeting of the season to Newton Abbot due to hard ground – the first meeting in October went to Chepstow for the same reason.

Course chief executive Bob Young said there had been little rain for a month with none on the horizon.

He said: “We had a choice – sitting on our hands and losing the fixture altogether, or accepting that it was unlikely to rain sufficiently and at least save the meeting, running it elsewhere.”

Racecourse bosses could install an irrigation system costing six figures to avoid future cancellations.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is warning that Somerset could soon experience similar shortages to other parts of England.

A spokesman said: “Without substantial rainfall the risk of drought could spread to the South-West.”

Wessex Water’s water levels for public supplies are “satisfactory” with reservoirs 85% full.

But head of water resources Luke de Vial said: “We’re concerned about the impact dry weather has had on river flows, habitats and agriculture.

“By carefully managing our resources by moving water from areas with surplus water to those in deficit we’ve been able to continue supplying water to customers without restrictions.”

Wessex, which has improved its leakage record, is urging customers to use water efficiently.

Local cricketers are hoping for rain so pitches can be prepared for the coming season.

Brompton Ralph CC groundsman Roy Takle said: “I don’t envisage a problem, but you need water to produce good wickets.”

There are fears that dry outfields could become dangerous if they crack from lack of moisture.

Gardeners are also hoping for rain – Adrian Prior-Sankey, spokesman for Taunton Flower Show on August 3-4, said: “No-one has raised the issue yet, but the more the rain holds off the worse it gets.”

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