AFTER the wettest winter on record last year, normality returned this year as the county saw below average rainfall for the first time in four years.

Figures from the Radcliffe Meteorological Station in Oxford saw winter 2013-14 produce a deluge of 334.7mm of rain, 123 per cent higher than Oxfordshire’s 248-year average.

This year’s 145.9mm – three per cent below average – brought relief to businesses that were previously victims of severe flooding – but only cautious optimism as records show a dry winter does not guarantee a warm, dry summer.

The driest winter since records began in 1767 was 1963/64, which was followed by a summer averaging just 15C in temperature.

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The second driest on record in 1890/91 was followed by nearly four times as much rainfall in the summer – a hefty 208.2m.

This winter was brighter than last year, the county had 259.1 hours of sunshine compared to 239.5 hours in 2013/14.

Green Gables Guest House in Abingdon Road lost about £7,000 last winter, after being forced to cancel many of its bookings as customers could not get in or out when the road was closed.

Oxford Mail:

Green Gables owner Narinder Bhella reflects on a winter of hardly any rainfall. Picture: Richard Cave.

Owner Narinder Bhella said it had been a “brilliant” winter.

He said: “Last year we were flooded quite badly twice.

“The first time wasn’t too bad but at the end of January we lost a lot of business.

“This year it’s been brilliant – and there’s even been some sunshine.”

Since Mr Bhella set up the guest house in 1999, five major floods have affected his property and he said he remains concerned.

He said: “In this area where the water table is very high you don’t need too much rain for floods to close the roads.”

The Mediterranean Fish Bar in Abingdon Road closed for two weeks last year and a change of location was mooted as a result of constant severe flooding.

New owner Yucel Koc said: “So far it’s going well.

“We shut for two weeks last year.

It must have cost us at least £7,000 – there was no point opening, the road was closed and there were no customers.

“We were just wasting money on electricity and gas.”

“I haven’t seen any new investment in flood defences yet but we will see – if it happens again it’s important the road doesn’t close.”

December was particularly sunny, with Dr Ian Ashpole – at the time the Observer at the Radcliffe Meteorological Station – saying nearly 97 hours of sunshine were recorded. He said: “Overall it was the warmest since 1815, and the previous winter months December to February were the wettest in 248 years.”

The previous record was set in 1952 when the sun shone for just under 78 hours.