THOUSANDS of sun-seekers have been enjoying Southend's beaches this weekend as scorching temperatures and hot summer sun formed the perfect backdrop for a weekend break. 

Braintree and Witham Times: Take shelter! - Umbrellas to protect families against the hot sunshineTake shelter! - Umbrellas to protect families against the hot sunshine

Beaches were brimming with people and traders were doing a roaring trade as visitors flocked to the town baskingin sunshine. 

Braintree and Witham Times: Visitors enjoy a lazy day on the waterVisitors enjoy a lazy day on the water

Today, another hot day is in store with temperatures in the 30Cs.

Braintree and Witham Times: Fun - a youngster in the waterFun - a youngster in the water

The mercury looks set to reach 35C today.

Braintree and Witham Times: Taking a break - visitors on the beach overlooking the pierTaking a break - visitors on the beach overlooking the pier

It comes as the Met Office warned that "severe thunderstorms" are likely early next week.

Braintree and Witham Times: Taking in the raysTaking in the rays

Southern and central England is set to enjoy temperatures in the high 20Cs, while cloud and breezes in some places may result in milder weather in the high teens.

Braintree and Witham Times: Taking a dive to cool offTaking a dive to cool off

Mr Snell said: "There is some contrast. For some of us the heatwave will continue on Sunday and beyond."

Braintree and Witham Times: Brilliant fun - on the beachesBrilliant fun - on the beaches

It comes after Friday saw the hottest August day in 17 years, with the mercury hitting 36.4C at Heathrow and Kew Gardens.

Braintree and Witham Times: A wonderful way to cool offA wonderful way to cool off

Saturday's top temperature was 34.5C - which was recorded at Frittenden in Kent, Wiggonholt in West Sussex, and Herstmonceux in East Sussex, the Met Office said.

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Many places are set for a "quite grey" start on Sunday - with cloud coming in across the North Sea, but that will burn away, according to Mr Snell.

Braintree and Witham Times: Taking a dip - at a social distance?Taking a dip - at a social distance?

There will be lots of sunshine which may trigger a few showers later on across the southern half of the UK.

Braintree and Witham Times: Keeping us safe - beach patrolKeeping us safe - beach patrol

Temperatures across England and Wales are expected to reach the high 20cs and low 30Cs, with Scotland and Northern Ireland having a few locations that may hit 24C.

Braintree and Witham Times: Having a brilliant timeHaving a brilliant time

Mr Snell said: "Overall Scotland and Northern Ireland are not tapping into the really hot air which parts of England will be experiencing on Sunday."

However, thunderstorms are forecast for next week.

Braintree and Witham Times: Hopefully, people were keeping their distanceHopefully, people were keeping their distance

Yellow thunderstorm warnings for all parts of the UK have been issued for Monday through to Wednesday. The warning states: "Some places are likely to see severe thunderstorms early next week - but there is significant uncertainty in location and timing."

Dan Harris, Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, said some places are likely to be hit with up to 80mm of rain in just a few hours.

Braintree and Witham Times: A beautiful day in SouthendA beautiful day in Southend

He said that "the ingredients are there" for them to strike, but "it's just too early to pinpoint the details of exactly where and when thunderstorms will occur".

Saturday, for the second day in a row, saw crowds of people headed for the coast - with images showing packed out beaches.

South East Water urged its customers to put away their hose pipes, garden sprinklers and garden water toys as it said that a spike in demand had left some people with low water or no water.