Icy outlook: Freezing arctic winds brought winter back to parts of north Wales, with snow covering the Snowdon Mountains at Llyn Ogwen
By David Derbyshire
Given the unpleasant chill in the air yesterday you would be forgiven for thinking it was February rather than May.
The wintry conditions saw frost on the ground in the coldest May morning for 17 years.
Temperatures dipped to -6c (21f) in the Scottish Highlands – the lowest figures for this month recorded in the UK since 1993.
Even in Suffolk, thermometers plunged to an unseasonal -4.1c (24.6f).
But there is brighter news on the horizon, with temperatures expected to rise from today, reaching the average for the time of year by the weekend.
Yesterday’s bitter morning came in a week when snow has dusted the Highlands and wintry showers have blasted the peaks of the Pennines, North Wales and the Lake District.
According to the Met Office, the mercury dropped to -5.8c (21.6f) on Shap Fell, Cumbria – the second coldest May temperature ever recorded there.
Despite the sunshine and blue skies in parts of the UK, daytime temperatures reached just 13c (55f) in the South-East – around 4c (8f) lower than normal.
Helen Chivers, of the Met Office, said: ‘It depends on what part of the UK you look at, but overall it’s been one of the coldest May mornings we’ve had for a while.’
She blamed the chill on a combination of clear skies and northerly winds.
The weather system – caused by an area of high pressure over the Atlantic – is the same one that brought the coldest winter for more than three decades and sent the Icelandic volcano ash heading towards Britain.
Gardeners last night revealed that the cold weather was playing havoc with preparations for the Chelsea Flower Show, which opens on May 25.
Sussex designer Roger Platt said he was struggling to bring on many of his plants.
‘The cold, long winter didn’t worry me too much because things tend to catch up in spring,’ he said.
‘But ten days ago the plants stopped – and they’ve been sulking for the last week. It’s a problem because one lost day now is the equivalent of one week lost in February and March.’
The return of warmer weather will also see more rain, the Met Office said. Showers and sunny spells are forecast for the South at the weekend, while the North will have showers and cloud.