Sun at last: thousands head for sea on a promise

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The Independent Online

Good news for those depressed by the wettest summer since 1956: the August Bank Holiday offers respite from the almost relentless rain over the UK, with forecasters predicting temperatures of 24C (75F) and dry, fine weather in much of Britain.

But for motorists taking advantage of the last long weekend before the new school term in September, the AA predicts widespread traffic jams,with 18 million cars expected to travel an average of more than 77 miles each.

More than a third of Britons are planning to get away this weekend, with 80 per cent heading for the sea. The AA said jams would be worst in Newquay, Torquay, Bournemouth, Brighton, and Great Yarmouth. Major routes to avoid include the M25, the M1 northbound, the M4 westbound, the M6 and M5. Roadworks remain on the M1 between junctions 6a and 10 near Luton in Bedfordshire, and the M4 at junction 12 near Reading.

The Met Office predicts a dry weekend for most of the UK, with a small chance of rain in the north and west of Scotland. Parts of southern England could see 26C, and the dry weather should stay to Monday night.

Organisers of London's Notting Hill Carnival, tomorrow and Monday, will be particularly pleased. On the basis of the past few months, they had reason to worry that the event would be a damp squib. This summer has been the wettest since 1956, with 355mm (14 in) of rain across the UK; the average is 226.9mm. The period between May and July was the wettest in the UK since 1766. Many parts of England suffered from severe flooding.

A Met Office spokesman, Dave Britton, said that it was too early to talk of an Indian summer. "Actually our forecasts for the next few weeks suggest a return to relatively normal weather conditions for the UK," he said. "But if anything, the start of September could be slightly warmer than average. After the summer we've had, many people seem to find average temperatures for this time of year pleasantly surprising."

The grey weather that accompanied the start of August did, however, encourage many families to seek respite abroad. Virgin Atlantic said that a surge of bookings prompted by the bad weather in early August would see a 25 per cent rise in passenger numbers on last year. And in what may be a sign that more Britons than ever are considering the consequences of their travel for the environment, a record 153,000 travellers will reach Europe by Eurostar's high-speed Channel tunnel rail link.