Farmers in the south of England might need to brace themselves for the coldest winter for a decade, according to the Met Office.

Forecasters have produced a long-range forecast which indicates a colder than average winter for much of Europe, which could also affect the southern regions of the UK.

The Met Office has suggested that the 2005/6 winter could be colder than the winters experienced since 1995/6 which have been relatively mild.

There is also an indication that over much of the UK, the winter will be drier than average.

A report on the Met Office’s website said that confidence in long-range predictions was relatively low compared to the normal short-period forecasts.

But typically the main features of the forecast were correct two out of every three occasions.

“Using a traffic light analogy we consider that people should be on amber alert for the prospect of a colder-than average winter.”