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Sustainable Shakespeare - Responding to Extreme Heat at Shakespeare’s Family Homes

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…

Andrew Anderson

On the 18th and 19th July 2022, Stratford-upon-Avon was placed under the first ever red weather warning for extreme heat, issued by the Met Office. Over those two days, temperature records tumbled across the UK. Coningsby in Lincolnshire recorded 40.3°C on 19th July and set a new daily maximum temperature record in the UK. While Wellesbourne, which is just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon, wasn’t quite that hot, it recorded a temperature of 39°C , exceeding the previous maximum temperature of 38.7°C recorded in Cambridge on 25th July 2019.

The extreme heat meant that we had to make changes to how we operated our sites, to keep our staff, volunteers and visitors as safe as possible. Our teams, both front of house and behind the scenes, did an amazing job in very difficult circumstances.

At the Birthplace we put up gazebos to provide extra shade on Henley Street and limited numbers within the house, so that visitors had the best experience when looking around. We also limited numbers at New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and gave our visitor facing teams regular breaks to rehydrate. All sites honoured pre-bought tickets but closed to new ticket sales after 1pm, helping to reduce visitor numbers in the peak heat of the day.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage Fallen Tree.jpg
A victim of the extreme heat at Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Our Estates Team provided ice lollies for staff at all of our sites, to help them keep cool, whilst also managing tasks as diverse as opening doors which had swollen in the heat to keeping the animals cool at Mary Arden’s Farm.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the heat overwhelmed some key systems and a combination of power outages and the effect of the heat on staff, volunteers and visitors meant that we had to close New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on the afternoon of 19th, just as temperatures were peaking at the Wellesbourne weather station. On the morning of 20th July, our sites were open again as normal.

One consequence of the extreme heat could be seen in the Orchards of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where a drier than usual spring and summer, combined with the heat of the 18th and 19th, caused one of our larger apple trees to fall over. The roots of the tree and the ground gave way in the extreme temperatures. However, that won’t be the end of the story for this tree. It will be removed and placed in our wilding area, to create new habitat for wildlife as it begins to rot, and we will honour our tree replanting pledge and plant two trees to replace it.

Tickets for our Welcombe Hills Walks are available from our Whats On page.

To find out more about our work to become net zero in our carbon emissions by 2030 visit our Sustainable Shakespeare page.