The month’s hottest day in 53 years was only slightly less than a 25.6C scorcher noted in 1968 at Mepal, Cambridgeshire. Met Office forecaster Alex Burkill said: “It is exceptionally high for the time of year.” Sun worshippers flocked to beaches, parks and the water to take advantage of the relaxed Covid guidelines. Six people or two households can now meet outside and the public were happy to oblige yesterday, while sticking to the rules – on the whole.
Hotspots included Brighton beach in East Sussex and Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, where bathers soaked up rays and cooled down in the waves.
Others worked up a sweat in outdoor exercise classes.
The botanical gardens of Sheffield and thermometer-busting Kew drew visitors eager to have photos taken among seasonal blooms and the lush green spaces.
Picnickers plumped for St James’s Park in the centre of the capital in conditions usually seen at the height of summer, not the foothills of spring.
While on the River Cam in Cambridge, the iconic punts were out in force with tourists taking advantage of a cooling trip on the water.
Swimmers revelled in being allowed to dive in at Hampstead Heath ponds in north London, while watersports fans took their paddleboards out during a stunning sunrise at Cullercoats Bay on North Tyneside.
Blackpool Tower was also seen bathed in a glorious start to the day.
The Mediterranean isle of Ibiza could manage only a comparatively meagre 18C.
Six Winchester University sports psychology students – Andy, Mims, Boie, Emily, Ollie and Toby – met up at Bournemouth beach, Dorset.
Andy Newman, 18, said they were looking forward to June 21 when restrictions are due to end. He added: “We are obeying social distancing because we want this to be over and our lives back to normal.
“Covid has ruined our first year but we know it’s only a couple of months until hopefully things are going to be very different.”
Fiona Johnson, 58, a carer, met up with two friends for a walk along the seafront where there were long queues for fish and chips and ice creams.
She said that although the three of them had had their first coronavirus jabs, they did not want to take any unnecessary risks. Fiona said: “This has been our first chance to meet up together and we haven’t stopped chatting.
“We are cautious and keeping our distance. The country is unlocking at the right pace and we shouldn’t rush things because we could end up in a lockdown with new variants.”
In Brighton, Sally Becker, 58, enjoyed a surprise birthday party with a picnic outside a beach hut with daughter Billie and old friends.
She said: “It was a surprise. I thought we were going to be just walking along the promenade. It’s our first social event for a very long time.”
Billie said: “It’s been so long since we’ve been able to do anything and we could not have asked for a better day.
“It’s just so nice to feel normal again.”
In the North, despite being several degrees cooler, there were busy scenes in Scarborough and Blackpool as the seaside towns welcomed back visitors – albeit with piers and non-essential shops closed.
But police in some areas had to remind people to keep their distance. Videos on social media showed revellers hugging while others pushed and shoved at Nottingham Arboretum.
One local resident described the scenes as “horrendous”.
The Met Office warns that the warm temperatures will cool down to more seasonal norms of around 10C by Good Friday.