Hottest day in five years! Who needs the Caribbean when we have Kent?

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Yesterday was the hottest day in five years - and Britain started creaking under the strain of the heat.

Temperatures soared into the thirties, with Gravesend in Kent clocking a record 33 C - beating the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and eastern deserts.

Holidaymakers and locals headed for parks, beaches and paddling pools all over the country in a bid to cool down.

As tennis fans sweltered in the heat to cheer on Andy Murray, the searing temperatures caused all sorts of chaos. The Met Office issued health warnings, pavements started to melt, trains slowed down and caused delays, and a fire in East Sussex caused by the heat from sunlight through a window almost destroyed a building.

In Brighton, holidaymakers were unable to get onto the beach because steps leading down to the sea started to melt. Brighton and Hove council said that recently laid asphalt had could not withstand the heat combined with heavy usage.

Workmen closed off the steps leading to the beach, forcing hundreds of sun-seekers to find an alternative route to the pebbles.

Speeds on the rail tracks were reduced from 90mph to as low as 60mph on the London to Norwich Great Eastern line run by National Express East Anglia

While the warm weather has baked the country, forecasters predict that the temperatures will now drop to a more seasonal 20C.

Andy Ratcliffe, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: 'Much of England will be hot and humid again.

'We're looking at highs reaching about 31C (88F) in the London area.

'But there is the chance of scattered thundery showers developing, and there could be local downpours where they occur.'

Although some parts of Britain will enjoy soaring temperatures, some areas will be cooler than they were yesterday, he said.

'Further north-east across the UK it will be fresher, with bursts of rain. The rain will move from southern and eastern Scotland into northern England and into Wales by the end of the day.

'The remaining parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland will be mainly dry but fresher than yesterday.'