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Warmer welcome as big thaw arrives

The big freeze will give way to a brief thaw over the next few days as most of the country gets a break from the bitter cold.

After a very chilly Christmas weekend, temperatures were higher today - with virtually the entire UK forecast to stay above freezing later this week as milder air sweeps in from the west.

The Met Office is nevertheless predicting that this month will be "by some margin" the coldest December since records began 100 years ago.

Rain, sleet and snow showers will affect some eastern and northern parts, before easing later. Although up to 15cm of snow will fall on higher ground, this will be the last batch for the foreseeable future.

Milder air then starts moving in from the west later tomorrow, along with more rain, with temperatures falling to zero overnight only in north-eastern areas of the country.

Parts of south-west England and south Wales are then expected to see temperatures reach 11C (52F) by Thursday, as just a few inland places in the north see zero degrees. But the mercury is expected to fall again towards the weekend.

Two Premier League and two SPL matches were postponed on Sunday, while a total of just nine games survived in the Championship, League One and League Two.

All of Sunday's race meetings were victims of the weather, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Forecaster Barry Gromett said: "The national record goes back to 1910 and it's running by some margin the coldest December at the moment."

He added that we were "over a degree colder" than the previous record.

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