A SWELTERING heatwave that clashed with the summer solstice saw Oxfordshire mark the hottest day of 2017 so far.

The longest day of the year yesterday coincided with tropical temperatures in the county, with Benson reaching highs of almost 32°C.

Many people across the county found various ways of cooling down, including using fruit as shade.

And while the dogs at Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary were able to enjoy a watery treat, there was a warning about taking care of animals in heat.

Justin Golding, animal attendant at the centre in Stadhampton, said: “People have seen others out running with their dogs, which is crazy.

“They should be in the shade and people should be walking them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. If you are walking on concrete and pavement slabs it can burn their paws. They also need plenty of water to drink.”

Early risers awoke at the crack of dawn to make the most of almost 17 hours of daylight yesterday, with the sun rising at 4.46am and setting at 9.27pm.

Sunrise spotters gathered at Wittenham Clumps near Didcot and the Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton to see in the solstice, which marks the official start of summer.

But the hot weather also sparked fresh safety warnings about swimming in open water, and a separate caution about pets overheating.

Firefighters urged people not to risk ‘dire consequences’ by cooling down in rivers and lakes, after rescuing a woman from the River Windrush in Witney.

Crews waded into the water near Windrush Leisure Centre and pulled the woman to safety at 6.30pm on Tuesday evening.

Incident commander Glen Lee, of Witney Fire Station, said: “The lady was fortunate not to come to any serious harm - but the combination of a person entering the water for a length of time, and a fast-flowing river, can lead to dire consequences. I urge the public to read our water safety messages.”

Police and paramedics also helped the woman, whose age and name have not been released.

Outdoor swimming coach Hayley Reynolds echoed Mr Lee’s concerns. The Shippon resident said: “The water looks very inviting. On the surface the temperature might feel ok, but the deeper you go it often gets colder.

“If you are very hot, that makes you more susceptible to the effects of cold water shock. The conditions are very different to a swimming pool. You never know what’s in it or what the currents are like.”

The county will cool to a more manageable 22°C today but the Met Office has issued a weather warning due to possible thunderstorms.