Otley historian Harry Hopkins remembers some extreme weather from years gone by.

I remember vividly the winter of 1963. It was one of the coldest on record. Rivers, lakes and even the sea froze over. Only the winters of 1683-1684 and 1739-1740 were colder than 1962-1963.

I was a young schoolboy then and I was fortunate enough to go to a school where we had teachers who were genuinely interested in their pupils.

I mention this because it was in early 1963 that a party of us, accompanied by dedicated teachers, went to Borrowdale in the North Lakes for a long weekend and the ice was so thick on Derwentwater we walked across it.

That is my abiding memory of the winter of 1962-1963, but what a winter it was all across the United Kingdom.

The months of December, January and February were known as the ‘big freeze’. Temperatures dropped to lows of -22 degrees centigrade. The sea froze over, roads and railway lines were blocked, and some rural communities were cut off for days on end.

Strangely, I don’t remember my school being closed for a single day. There was no mention of climate change. People just got on with it.

Fast forward to the summer of 1976. And what a scorcher this was. It was considered the hottest summer in Europe during the 20th century. High pressure moved in during late May and stayed there until the first traces of rain on August 22.

Three months of scorching weather. During this spell, the UK experienced temperatures exceeding 32 degrees centigrade at several weather stations every day for three months and the town of Cheltenham had 11 successive days where the temperature registered 35 degrees.

The UK averaged 14 hours of sunshine for the entire duration. Roads melted, rivers and reservoirs dried up and standpipes were introduced.

Yorkshire alone had 11,500 of these pipes as people queued for water which took on a value not seen since. The slogan ‘Save water, bath with a friend’ appeared everywhere and caused much mirth. This 16-week dry spell was the longest recorded in England and Wales since 1727.

Wildfires became a national preoccupation and the news was dominated by the spectacular accounts of ‘pyrotechnics’ when Surrey heaths and North Yorkshire Moors went up in smoke.

The London Underground became hell on earth - office work became an ordeal without air conditioning and to cap it all 400 Wimbledon spectators were treated for heat exhaustion in a single day. Stewards at Wimbledon and Henley Regatta were allowed to remove their jackets.