Searing summer temperatures in the UK have not just parched the earth and dried up rivers, lakes and reservoirs but are also seeing trees shed their leaves early.

Instead of green, many gardens, parks and woods are now a sea of orange, yellow, red and brown, with thick carpets of leaves on the ground.

The early leaf fall, dubbed a "false autumn", is a sign of stress, as trees shed their leaves to try to retain moisture.

But experts say while older trees with deep roots can withstand the drier conditions, younger, less established ones could be at risk.

"The trees are enacting the hormones they use in autumn to just retract and ensure their survival," said Rosie Walker, of the Woodland Trust conservation charity.

"They'll keep going like this for a few years but it is going to start impacting our trees if we're not very careful," she told BBC radio.

Temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in Britain in July, with the month the driest on record in many parts of southern and eastern England.

Climate change has been blamed for the searing heatwave, which has led to drought being declared and a ban on the use of hosepipes to save water in some areas.

The Woodland Trust said fallen leaves are most likely to come from birch, silver birch and rowan trees.

"We saw the first turn in silver birch on 12 August, which is incredibly early," said Ms Walker, adding that other species were also shedding their leaves.

Sun-bleached grass alongside the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park

The trust meanwhile said it recorded its earliest ever appearance of ripe wild blackberries - normally an autumn fruit - on 28 June.

That, and the premature ripening of other berries and nuts, could hit wildlife such as small mammals and birds who store energy in September and October for the cold winter months.

Animals such as dormice consume high-fat foods such as hazelnuts and other hedgerow fruits in autumn but could struggle if they are gone by August.

Steve Hussey, from the Devon Wildlife Trust in southwest England, said: "Nature's timing is everything for our wildlife.

"The climate crisis is bringing with it seasonal weather patterns which our wildlife is just not adapted to.

"Our long, hot summer and the 'false autumn' will have a knock-on for many species right into the real autumn months and beyond."

A tanker from Thames Water pumps water into another tanker in the village of Northend in Oxfordshire

Meanwhile, Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people in England, has put in place a hosepipe ban.

The company said water levels in its reservoirs were "much lower than usual" when it announced the ban.

It joins Welsh Water, Southern Water and South East Water and South West Water in implementing bans, with Yorkshire Water following suit on 26 August.

It means more than 29.4 million customers across the UK will be prohibited from using hosepipes by the end of the week.

It comes after a drought was officially declared across most of England following the driest July for 50 years and the driest first half of the year since 1976.

Parts of the UK faced two days of heavy downpours and flooding last week, but the Environment Agency has said it will take weeks' worth of rain to replenish water sources and end the drought.