- Mercury hits 24.8C in Gravesend, Kent, and 24.6C at Heathrow - topping yesterday's 24.5C high in Central London
- Britain's wine growers say they are on course for a vintage year with a high quality product thanks to the weather
- Bumper crop of strawberries, cherries, apples and pears also on way this summer, Royal Horticultural Society says
- Month of May still on track to become hottest ever, with record set 60 years ago when temperatures hit 33C
- But the South West will see showers today and the rain is expected to spread north east through the country
By Mark Duell
Published: 09:28 GMT, 19 May 2014 | Updated: 14:34 GMT, 19 May 2014
Britons were once again basking in the hottest day of the year so far today, with temperatures expected to reach as high as 26C (79F) by the afternoon.
The mercury has already hit 24.6C (76F) at London Heathrow Airport and 24.8C (77F) in Gravesend, Kent - hotter than Rhodes, Rome and Madrid.
But there could be scattered showers and thunderstorms in the North today, and later this week there will be a chance of thunderstorms across the UK.
Met Office severe rain warnings were issued for Strathclyde tonight, and tomorrow for Dumfries and Galloway, Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, the Queen and celebrities were getting the first look at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, before it opens its doors to the public tomorrow.
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Row your boat: A couple enjoy the hot weather in Durham on the River Wear today
Having fun: Noah Crackett, four, from Northumberland, plays in the rock pools beside St Mary's Lighthouse in North Tyneside
In the shade: Chelsea Pensioners in the London Square garden, at the 2014 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show today
The effects of old and modern conflicts are being remembered in horticulture as the show in the capital marks the centenary of the First World War.
Many people flocked to parks and beaches yesterday as 2014's previous top temperature of 24.5C (76F) was recorded at St James's Park in London.
Met Office forecaster Alex Burkill said: ‘There's a good chance we could reach 25C. There's an outside chance we could get a little above 25C.’
Forecasters said the places most likely to see the hottest temperatures as well as London would be up to the Midlands, and up towards the North-West.
Temperatures yesterday were in the mid-20s in much of England and Wales while parts of western Scotland and Northern Ireland were hit by rain.
Sheffield, Cambridge and Gravesend in Kent all enjoyed highs of 24.3C (76F) while Northolt in north-west London reached 24.1C (75F).
Hot day: Jack Wright, four, splashes water into the camera in the sea at Cullercoats Bay, North Tyneside, as the warm weather continues across the country
Too much heat: At a rehearsal for Trooping the Colour in Central London this morning, a Guardsman passed out in the hot weather
Marching: There was a rehearsal for Trooping the Colour in London this morning as temperatures remained high for May across England
WARNING OVER HEAT EXHAUSTION AFTER TWO PEOPLE COLLAPSE
The scorching weather was too much for a Guardsman who collapsed during a Trooping the Colour rehearsal in Westminster today.
And a 32-year-old woman was treated for heat exhaustion after collapsing outside Battersea Fire Station in south-west London yesterday.
Firefighters were able to help her after being alerted by a passer-by who ran into the station.
A London Ambulance Service spokesman said: ‘We were called at about 8.30pm yesterday to reports of a person taken unwell in Este Road.
‘Staff treated a 32-year-old woman and she was taken to St George's Hospital. She was fully conscious and breathing.’
The LAS said many people call them with heat-related issues ‘that could be avoided if they took more care in the sun, and we would again urge people to look after themselves’.
The service said it was urging people to check on friends, relatives and neighbours who could be vulnerable during the hot weather.
People are urged to wear hats when outside, use plenty of sun cream, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol consumption in the sun.
Medicines for conditions such as asthma and bronchitis should be carried, the LAS warned.
It means that this May could still be on track to become the hottest ever.
Bookmakers Ladbrokes slashed odds to 5/1 that the record set 60 years ago when temperatures got to 32.8C (91F) will be beaten.
Gardeners at the Chelsea Flower Show faced a battle to stop their blooms wilting ahead of the Queen’s annual visit today.
Many took to covering plants, particularly peonies and irises, in muslin to keep off the rays.
Others tied up their flowers and watered them repeatedly to stop them opening too early.
The baking temperatures left gardeners at the London show – which opens this week – more than a little hot under the collar.
Wilson, 55, who designed a wine-themed garden costing tens of thousands
of pounds, said: ‘Last year it was freezing and this year it’s too hot.
'My irises have started to go over. I’ll have to substitute some of them with roses.’
Clementel, who has designed a garden for Country Life magazine, said
she was worried about whether her Irises would hold out.
The 55-year-old, from Spain, added: ‘It’s a bit of a panic but we’ll do our best.’
Forecasters said that while much of England and Wales would enjoy another warm day today, the South West will see showers.
The rain is expected to spread north east through the country, with conditions becoming more unsettled as the week goes on.
Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts said yesterday: ‘We expect to see highs of around 24C (75.2F) again tomorrow in the South East but temperatures will start to fall elsewhere.
‘By Wednesday temperatures will likely be in the high teens rather than the low 20s and then go back to averages for this time of year of around 16C (60.8F).’
Northern Ireland could witness heavy showers this evening and into the night.
Meanwhile, Scotland is expected to see an improvement, with temperatures rising to 20C (68F) in Glasgow compared to 15C (59F) yesterday.
Swimming: A man takes a dip in the River Wharfe to cool off in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, while a couple watch from dry land
Beautiful day for it: A young family enjoy the sunshine by the River Wharfe in Ilkley, West Yorkshire
In bloom: Chelsea Pensioners Jim Lycett (standing) and Frank Mouque (wheelchair) at the Hope on the Horizon garden at the Chelsea Flower Show today
London Ambulance Service (LAS) said they had experienced their third busiest weekend ever with the FA Cup final contributing to the rise in calls to the service.
Staff in the LAS answered 6,606 emergency calls yesterday, an increase of 28 per cent compared to the previous Sunday, making it the sixth busiest day ever.
Saturday was also exceptionally busy, with a total of 6,137 emergency calls recorded, compared to just over 5,000 calls the previous weekend.
At Saturday's busiest, staff taking and handling calls in the control room took 403 calls an hour, between 11pm and midnight.
Eating out: Mobile phone network O2 created a giant picnic table in Soho Square, central London, to mark the launch of its new '£1 Lunch' deal today
Giant picnic table: Domino's Pizza and Upper Crust baguettes were among the items on offer today in Soho Square, central London
Kevin Brown, LAS deputy director of operations, said: ‘We always see a rise in calls to our service in hot weather.
‘But this weekend in particular there were a variety of reasons including the big turnout for the FA Cup final in Wembley.
‘It is important people help us to respond to the most seriously ill and injured by only calling 999 in a genuine emergency.
‘Anyone with a minor condition should consider other health care options such as visiting their GP, local pharmacy or calling 111.
Beautiful start: Fishermen launch their boat into the North Sea at sunrise this morning in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire
Sunrise: Another view of fishermen heading out into the North Sea from the beach at Saltburn today
‘Many people call us with heat-related issues that could be avoided if they took more care in the sun, and we would again urge people to look after themselves.’
Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Flower Show, designers have drawn on family experiences of war from the Somme to Afghanistan to create displays for this week’s event at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The flower show also contains gardens addressing themes from fashion to sustainability and drawing on inspiration from around the world.
UK growers - including some who battled floods for weeks in Somerset at the beginning of the year - are showcasing their produce, while one herb grower has recreated the vegetable garden where Peter Rabbit liked to eat.
Scorcher: Helen Elks Smith waters and covers the plants to protect from the sunlight during the preparations for the opening day at Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow
Struggle: Wilting Iris flowers in the heat at the Chelsea Flower Show as gardeners have to take special measures to protect their flowers from the hot weather
BUMPER CROP OF FRUIT ON THE WAY THANKS TO GOOD WEATHER
bumper crop of strawberries, cherries, apples and pears is on the way
following a good run of kind weather, experts said today.
the Royal Horticultural Society said gardeners must get their plants in
the ground quickly to make the most of the conditions - and warned that
pests are also flourishing.
plants have been flowering up to three weeks earlier than usual - and
fruit trees were now flourishing and packed with buds.
Guy Barter from the RHS told The Times: ‘We had our hearts in our mouths because of the risk of frosts but we got away with it.
good light and warmth that we are experiencing will help plants retain
fruits instead of dropping some, especially cherries.’
And veteran Chelsea BBC presenter Alan Titchmarsh has returned to his gardening roots with a garden that celebrates 50 years of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom competition - and his 50 years in horticulture.
Actors Rowan Atkinson and Nigel Havers read poems by First World War poets who died during the conflict, on the No Man’s Land ABF The Soldiers’ Charity garden to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Havers read A Soldier’s Cemetery by John William Streets, and Atkinson read Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen and later The Dead by Rupert Brooke.
The garden represents a landscape marked by the fighting in northern France, including trenches, a mine crater pond and the yew trees found in war cemeteries.
Designer Charlotte Rowe said she was inspired by her own family’s involvement in the First World War, including her grandfather, a second lieutenant with the Middlesex Regiment.
She said: ‘The idea behind it is that the land, No Man’s Land, was fought over again and again with the front line moving very little, and the land got completely messed up and churned up.
‘The concept is the healing of the land after severe conflict, and relating it to the human body and spirit.’
Plants used in the garden have been grown by injured soldiers at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court as part of horticultural therapy.
The war in Afghanistan inspired first-time Chelsea designer Matthew Keightley to design the Hope on the Horizon garden for Help For Heroes, which charts the path to recovery for wounded personnel.
Scorcher: Today will be the hottest day of the year so far, with lots of sunshine in England before more stormy colder conditions take over for the rest of the week
Warning map: There were nine Environment Agency flood alerts in place for England and Wales today - all in the West
Famous view: Sun-seekers headed to Brighton beach in East Sussex yesterday as the sun shone down on the South-East and other parts of Britain
Mr Keightley's brother Michael serves with the RAF Regiment and is on his fifth tour of Afghanistan. On his last tour, he formed part of a medical evacuation crew, which led the designer to explore the recovery process.
Mr Keightley said the experience of creating his first garden at Chelsea had been ‘unreal, unbelievable’.
‘It's the first time since being involved in team sport I've felt that feeling of camaraderie, not just with my own blokes but the greater community.
‘The experienced designers have been willing to help.’
BRITAIN'S WINE MAKERS: WE'RE ON COURSE FOR A CORKING YEAR THANKS TO THE FINE WEATHER
Britain's wine growers say they are on course for a vintage year with a high quality product offering thanks to the fine weather.
The beautiful spring has seen vines get off to a wonderful start - and producers across the country are predicting a bumper crop of grapes.
Halfpenny Green Vineyard in Bobbington, Shropshire, has seen first-hand how attitudes towards UK wines have changed during its 30-year history.
Increased demand: Sam Linter, winemaker from the Bolney wine estate in Sussex, toasts the success of the English wine industry
Clive Vickers, who co-owns the vineyard, said: ‘Going back to the 1980s there was definitely a stigma attached to what we were doing.
‘But during the last two or three years, as a country, we have realised we can now make really decent wine, which is now winning awards.
‘English wine growers across the country are now winning competitions, not just nationally but also internationally.’
The vineyard's most popular brands include a medium white called Black Country Gold and a medium-bodied red called Penny Red.
Having a drink: Britain's wine growers say they are on course for a vintage year with a high quality product offering thanks to the fine weather
Waitrose predicts the next few months could bring the best summer yet for English rosé - and is expecting sales to double this year.
Its English wine buyer Becky Hull said: 'Our customers love home-grown wines [and] this year's English rosé vintage is an absolute stunner.
‘[It] will not only give Provence a run for its money but will also be perfect for enjoying the gorgeous weather we're currently experiencing.’
One of its rosé suppliers is the Bolney Estate in Sussex, whose wine will be rolled out to 85 branches from next month - up from the current figure of 30.
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