Warmest March day for 53 years? Temperatures exceed 24C as London basks in the sunshine

Visitors enjoying the sun at Kew Gardens in south-west London

The UK has provisionally recorded its warmest March day in 53 years as temperatures in London rose above 24C, the Met Office said.

The mercury hit 24.2C in St James’s Park in central London on Tuesday – slightly below the UK’s hottest ever March temperature of 25.6C, recorded in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 24C again on Wednesday around the London area.

The Met Office earlier tweeted there would be “exceptional warmth” and “massive” temperature contrasts as the month comes to a close.

Chief meteorologist Steve Ramsdale said: “The UK will see a few days of notably warm weather to end March, with a maximum of 24C on Wednesday in the south and east of England."

The warm weather coincides with a major easing of England’s lockdown measures, with the “stay at home” message ending, and groups of six people, or two households, allowed to meet outside.

Outdoor sporting venues such as football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and sailing clubs are also allowed to reopen.

Video: People enjoying the sunshine on Southend beach

Waitrose said sales of coal barbecues had increased by 841% ahead of the Easter weekend, and that it had seen an increase of 50% in orders for grilling food such as burgers and sausages.

The supermarket chain said it also expected sales of Champagne to increase by 132% in the coming days.