Browned off: trees and travellers to suffer over bank holiday

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The Independent Online

August bank holiday is traditionally high summer's last hurrah. This year, however, it could signal the premature fruitfulness of early autumn, as tree foliage turns bronze and berries ripen in record time.

August bank holiday is traditionally high summer's last hurrah. This year, however, it could signal the premature fruitfulness of early autumn, as tree foliage turns bronze and berries ripen in record time.

The long hot summer, which has brought signs of autumn a month earlier than last year, looks set to continue into the weekend. Temperatures are expected to peak at 28C.

But one of the most event-packed weekends in the calendar will be shrouded in a distinctly unseasonable autumnal haze. Carpets of crisp brown leaves, acorns and conkers have already covered parks across the country. According to a botanist at Kew Gardens, in west London, it is feared that plants are suffering stress from lack of water.

The trials and tribulations of a stressed plant, however, are likely to be far from the minds of millions of Britons who are planning to make the most of the sunshine this weekend by attending festivals, carnivals and outdoor events.

More than 55,000 will head to the Reading Festival, where the headline acts include Blur and Metallica. A million people will throng the streets of west London for the Notting Hill Carnival celebrations and large crowds are also expected at the EuroPride weekend in Manchester. England's rugby union international against Wales in Cardiff is expected to draw more than 60,000 fans.

The traditional bank holiday exodus is expected to involve as many as one in four people travelling more than 400 miles for weekend breaks in London, Brighton Bournemouth and Blackpool, according to one poll. Others are planning to go further afield, with Heathrow Airport predicting its busiest bank holiday weekend. More than 780,000 people are expected to pass through the airport, while a further 480,000 passengers will travel through Gatwick.

But those who have decided to stay at home may well emerge as the wisest because transport problems are expected across the country. Trains will be severely disrupted by an extensive programme of engineering works planned by Network Rail. Both Reading visitors and those planning to travel to Cardiff for the rugby may be affected by closures on stretches of the Great Western Main Line throughout the weekend. Sections of the West Coast Main Line will be closed and disruptions are also expected on the Midland Main Line and on the East Coast Main Line.

Britons planning to fly abroad will not be immune: the Stansted Express rail service, which runs from London's Liverpool Street station to the airport, will be replaced with coaches on Sunday and Monday.

And motorists will not find travelling less trying: roadworks are expected to blight journeys on the M1, M4, M5, M6, M11 and M25.

David Jamieson, the roads minister, warned bank holiday travellers to check their weekend routes in advance in order to minimise potential delays.

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