Britons see in 2009 by land, sea – and air

Nation braves freezing temperatures to welcome new year in the great outdoors
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The Independent Online

Not everyone spent the first day of 2009 in bed nursing a hangover. Despite the chilly weather, those who didn't have a pounding head – or weren't still coming home from the night before – made use of their day off with physical activities and just plain-old clowning around.

Ice skaters wrapped up and spent the first day of the new year on the rink at Kew Gardens, in London.

In Breen, Somerset, there was more exercise, perhaps as those New Year's resolutions came into effect, with horse riders defying cold weather and enjoying a gallop along the beach.

A crowd of about 400,000 turned out in London for the annual New Year's parade, which began in Parliament Square before winding through Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Cockspur Street, Pall Mall and Lower Regent Street to Piccadilly. The event boasted 10,000 colourful acts from all over the world, including 24 London boroughs, featuring Routemaster buses and US cheerleaders.

One female participant resembled a giant butterfly in a shimmery gold dress with huge wings attached, while a man rode an old Penny Farthing bicycle along the 2.2-mile route.

Bob Bone, parade executive director, said: "This is a wonderful shop window for our great city."

The show was followed by a huge clean-up of the streets.

In Edinburgh, the very brave suited up and jumped into the Firth of Forth during the annual Loony Dook at Queensferry. Some claim that the shock of the Dook is the perfect hangover cure after Hogmanay.

It was a day notorious for prank-sters. West Midlands Ambulance Service said it took almost 1,300 emergency calls in the first five hours of the new year. That included one from a man who asked if New York was in the United States and what time it was there.

Today it may be back to work for some, although the day has been dubbed "no-show Friday", out of fear that many employees will pull a sickie.

And while it is a new year, it looks like more of the same old weather. The Met Office has forecast a "very cold and still quite dry" January, with the possibility of snow, sleet and rain in some parts of Britain on Sunday.

With the Christmas and New Year's festivities over for another year, it's on to Easter, with chocolate eggs and treats already reportedly appearing on some supermarket shelves.

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