Holidaymakers savoured the sunshine at the country’s beaches and parks on Saturday in the first Easter break without lockdown restrictions for two years.
Many headed for the coast, with most of the country enjoying the temperatures that reached 21.6C on Saturday, according to the Met Office. It was the hottest day of the year so far on Good Friday, when highs of 23.4C were recorded at St James’s Park in London – warmer than Ibiza.
The seven miles of beaches at Bournemouth attracted some of the biggest crowds of the year. Coastal car parks in Cornwall were also packed as holidaymakers headed to the beaches and pubs.
The Easter getaway has been disrupted by staff shortages at the country’s airports and rail shutdowns on part of the network. Liverpool and Man City fans travelling to the FA Cup match at Wembley were advised to avoid travelling by rail because of the closure of Euston Station in London for track improvements.
Drivers were hit with long delays on some routes. In Berkshire, a stretch of the M4 was closed in both directions between junctions 13 and 14 after fire crews were called to a fire and explosions at an industrial unit near the RAF Welford base. A vast plume of smoke could be seen from the motorway.
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire involved “possible pyrotechnics and fireworks”. There were no reported injuries.
In the south-east, motorists faced gridlock after a crash in Surrey and a police incident at the Dartford Crossing brought traffic to a halt, with six-mile tailbacks reported on the M25 on Saturday afternoon.
Motorists also faced delays near Bristol and Birmingham, although traffic yesterday was not believed to be as heavy as on Good Friday, according to the AA, which estimates that about 27.6m journeys will be made in total over the “busier than usual” bank holiday weekend.
The RAC suggested the best time to travel on major roads on Sunday is after 3pm, and then either before 10.30am on Easter Mondaytomorrow or after 6.30pm to avoid major queues.
There have also been some reports of fuel shortages, with the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent forecourts, saying it was aware of protests at several supply sites.
Meanwhile, after weeks of delays and baggage fiascos at UK airports, there was some good news from Heathrow and Manchester. One man flying from Heathrow wrote online that it had taken him only three hours to get from Wakefield to the airport and through security.
Another wrote: “Despite all the headlines, Heathrow airport has been a breeze with check in and security. And now we’ve got over two hours to kill.” And in Manchester, a passenger wrote that there was “no queue for taxi drop-off – none to check in – security queue very small – in and through to airside in 15 mins”.
At the Port of Dover, traffic was also said to be flowing smoothly again after days of delays caused by the suspension of ferry crossings to and from Calais by P&O Ferries.
The Met Office said temperatures on Saturday yesterday were above average for mid-April, with the highest temperature of 21.6C recorded at Chivenor, near Barnstaple in Devon.
Dan Stroud, from the Met Office, said it had been a “glorious day in the south and the south east” in particular, with some cloud in other areas.
Most southern and eastern areas are forecast to stay dry for the rest of the bank holiday weekend with sunshine, but there will be more unsettled weather in the north and north-west.