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Indian summer will fail to reach weekend

Britons flocked to beaches and parks today to make the most of the unseasonably warm conditions before the wind and rain returns at the weekend.

Temperatures reached a short-sleeve friendly 18C (64.4F) in some towns, including in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where young children ate ice creams and played in the sea as the summertime donkey ride trade enjoyed a late boost.

The images of Britons relaxing in the Indian Summer conditions marked a stark contrast to this time last year, when freezing snowstorms hit parts of the UK.

Temperatures dropped to -4C (24.8F) in south east and eastern England exactly a year ago, bringing snow and sleet showers and causing transport chaos.

But this week's frost-free weather is a boost for families across the country, with many schools closed for the half-term break.

The hamlet of Christmas Common in Buckinghamshire, where dog walkers braved snowy conditions a year ago, saw power walkers out in force, enjoying the warm weather while they could.

And parts of England and Wales are expected to approach an even balmier 20C (68F) tomorrow and Friday - five degrees above the average - as tropical winds banish any autumnal chill.

The warm sunshine brought young families to the beaches of Scarborough as forecasters warned that the mild autumn conditions will not last and heavy rain is on its way with strong winds for the weekend.

The mild weather is being produced by a low pressure out in the Atlantic and a high pressure over Scandinavia, which are sending warm winds up from southern France and central Africa.

Tom Tobler, a forecaster with MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, said early morning fog would clear quickly tomorrow, leaving most places dry and the best chance of sunshine in southern England.

Friday will also be fine for most of the day, but cooler, more unsettled weather is expected to start arriving by Saturday night, he said.

Bands of rain, some heavy with strong winds, will also move across the UK.

He added: "There will be more unsettled weather next week, with it feeling a lot cooler than it has been recently.

"But it's still autumnal, and is not turning wintry yet."