Sea frozen in Dorset as schools close

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The sea froze yesterday as Britain's shivering start to the year got colder. Southern England was gripped by conditions chillier than parts of Iceland and Greenland on Tuesday night as temperatures fell close to -12C in Benson in Oxfordshire and Chesham in Buckinghamshire.

In Dorset, half a mile of water froze off Sandbanks. Locals said it was the first time in decades the sea had partly frozen. Snow and ice closed dozens of schools across the UK. Milder weather was expected for last night but forecasters said that fog and black ice would make driving conditions perilous.

Fears were also growing for the welfare of vulnerable people amid speculation that gas prices were set to soar.