Britain is finally set for a decent spell of dry and sunny weather – just in time for the bank holiday weekend as nearly 11million drivers hit the roads to make the most of it.
Temperatures could reach 77F (25C) in South East England next week as schoolchildren enjoy half-term, and there are increasing hopes of a flaming June following a May that has been the wettest on record for some areas.
The Met Office has warned sun-worshippers not to expect a heatwave just yet, but the mercury will hit 68F (20C) tomorrow sparking ten days of warm and dry weather, with similar highs widely in England and Wales next week.
By the end of the bank holiday weekend, temperatures could reach 77F (25C) in West London and stay at that level further into the week. It will also be warm in the North, with 72F (22C) in Newcastle and 70F (21C) in Leeds.
The Met Office expects a few isolated showers tomorrow but Sunday should mark the start of a sun-dominated spell which the lockdown-weary nation has been waiting for – and no doubt bring a stampede to Britain’s beaches.
The RAC warned that the bank holiday weekend will see an estimated 10.8million leisure trips taken by car according to its research of drivers’ plans, but the warmth could see even more motorists take to the roads.
The motoring organisation said drivers have firm plans to take 7.2million trips to see friends and family between today and bank holiday Monday – with tomorrow and Monday busiest at 2million separate journeys each day.
An extra 3.6million trips will be taken at some point over the weekend by motorists who have not yet decided on which days they will drive, suggesting the weather will play a major role in deciding traffic congestion levels.
People in Newcastle are starting to celebrate the Spring Bank Holiday with an outdoor drink in the sunshine
Heavy traffic builds up on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the bank holiday getaway starts to intensify
Heavy traffic near Exeter in Devon this afternoon at junction 30 on the M5 motorway as people go away on a long weekend
The May bank holiday traffic brought the A102 Blackwall Tunnel in London to a near standstill today, with cars seen standing bumper-to-bumper
Heavy traffic built up on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey as the Bank Holiday getaway rush kicked in on Friday
End of school term holidays have started, and people are taking the opportunity to get away. Managed motorway speed restrictions are in place due to the volume of traffic heading south towards Devon and Cornwall (pictured)
Crowds of shoppers on Northumberland Street in Newcastle this afternoon ahead of the bank holiday weekend
People out punting in the sun on the River Cam in Cambridge today with the weather set to be good for this weekend
Heavy traffic builds up on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as people head off on a bank holiday break
Heavy traffic on the M5 near Exeter in Devon this afternoon as people go away on a long weekend for the bank holiday
Heavy traffic builds up on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey. Countless Britons have taken to the road ahead of the Bank Holiday
Gardner Chris Brock, 43, at Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland this morning as the rhododendrons are in full bloom
The reduction in Covid-19 cases is also building confidence, with just 11 per cent of drivers not planning leisure trips due to the pandemic, compared to 18 per cent on the early May bank holiday and 25 per cent over Easter.
The positive forecast comes after the UK got a taste of summer yesterday as temperatures hit 71.6F (22C) in the Surrey village of Wisley, which was the first time anywere in the UK had reached at least 68F (20C) since May 9.
Bug splatter app launched to help survey insect populations
A new app is allowing car drivers to help survey the nation’s insect populations by counting the number of bugs squashed on their car registration plates after a journey.
The free Bugs Matter app, launched on Friday by Kent, Gwent, Essex and Somerset Wildlife Trusts and insect charity Buglife, aims to help wildlife organisations better understand how local insect populations are faring.
After downloading the app, users are asked to clean their number plate before a drive.
Upon reaching their destination, they count the bugs squashed on a section of the number plate by placing a special grid against it, known as a splatometer.
Further details are then submitted, along with a photo.
The survey is based on the so-called windscreen phenomenon, a term given to the observation that people tend to find fewer insects squashed on the windscreens of their cars compared to several decades ago.
According to Buglife, there is growing evidence of insect decline on a global scale caused by habitat loss and pesticides.
The charity added the decline could be catastrophic for the integrity of our ecosystems, the future survival of other wildlife and the pollination of crops.
The survey period runs from June 1 until August 31.
Next week is likely to set a new high for the hottest day of 2021 so far, with the current record standing since March 30 when 76.1F (24.5C) was recorded in London on what was the warmest March day in 53 years.
And with Tuesday being the first day of meteorological summer, conditions should be far more summer-like than Britons have been used to in recent weeks.
Met Office meteorologist Grahame Madge said: ‘We aren’t going to see a heatwave but what it will feel like is a big contrast to the very wet and cool May we have all endured so far.’
He said it was not yet clear how long the better weather would continue, but he added: ‘The conditions are not just going to suddenly end on bank holiday Monday.
‘The fine and settled conditions will continue into the middle of next week and it may well extend beyond that. Everywhere in England will see temperatures of 20C or above next week.’
Mr Madge said ‘Miserable May’ has been due to the southerly jet stream that has put the UK ‘on the cold side’ of the weather system.
‘The jet stream now is working with us and we are on the warm side of the jet stream, so conditions are much improved,’ he said.
‘There could be some rain on Saturday morning but once that’s cleared we are in for quite a prolonged spell of fine, clear conditions.’
But forecasters have warned people to wear suncream if visiting a beach or sitting in a park, with the sun’s ultraviolet rays likely to pose a risk to many Britons.
‘The fact that we have not had these sort of conditions for some time may mean people forget or are inclined to take risks,’ said Mr Madge.
The warmer weather marks a welcome break from the rain that has dominated the UK since the start of the month.
According to Met Office figures it has been the 10th wettest May on record with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all recording rainfall above the average amount predicted at this point in May.
Parts of Scotland and northern England even saw snow at the beginning of the month when temperatures reached 22.1F (-5.5C).
About 98 per cent of Highways England roads – motorways and major A-roads – will be free of roadworks to give extra capacity, with 899 carriageway miles of roadworks being completed or suspended ahead of the weekend.
With lockdown restrictions eased, people are already gathering outside for a drink to celebrate the Bank Holiday weekend
Pub goers were spotted in Newcastle celebrating the upcoming long weekend on Friday afternoon.
Motorhomes are among the vehicles on the M5 near Exeter in Devon as holidaymakers make their way though the South West
Thomas Skinner, once a contestant on the BBC’s The Apprentice, was stuck on the M25 today and tweeted the above picture
The sun rises through the clouds over a house on St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay on the North East coast today
The RAC’s Ben Aldous said: ‘With Covid restrictions gradually lifting and some better weather on the horizon at last, we’re anticipating large numbers of drivers to be venturing out and about over the bank holiday weekend.
‘The fact only one-in-10 said they weren’t planning a trip because of the virus, down from a quarter over Easter, shows people now have more confidence to drive to see friends and family safely.
‘Our research points to Saturday and Monday being the busiest days, but in reality, there’s a good chance the weather will have the final say as to how busy the roads get.
‘A return to more typical late May temperatures and an end to the recent wind and rain could spark a sudden surge in journeys and mean some routes – especially those to the coasts and hills – start to clog up.’
And Highways England traffic officer Dave Harford said: ‘If you haven’t driven for a while due to lockdown, you might feel a bit strange getting back behind the wheel. Checking your tyres, oil, screenwash, lights and fuel doesn’t take long – but it will help keep you and your loved ones safe.’
Highways England advises that drivers should plan ahead and aim to travel at quieter times if possible, which are likely to be the afternoon and evening of this Friday, and mid-morning to mid-afternoon on the other days.