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BONKERS swimmers braved sub-zero temperatures for an annual festive plunge yesterday - as the country enjoyed a white Christmas.

Around 80 brave souls smashed holes in the frozen Blackroot Pool in Sutton Coldfield, before jumping into the ice-cold water.

Former organiser Peter Moore, a member of Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club, said: "Two years ago people simple dived straight in and had a good thrash around.

"But last year the pool was also covered in ice, so someone bashed a hole in it so people could get in one at a time.

"Of course, it's not much fun queuing up in the cold. It's better to just dive in - and then get out as quickly as you can!'' The Midlands is still covered in a blanket of snow after a week of blizzards and arctic conditions caused chaos on the roads, rail and at airports.

But while transport has been disrupted, many children took advantage of the heavy snowfalls to go sledging, build snowmen or have fun snowball fights.

Helen Rossington, a forecaster at the MeteoGroup weather service, said the worst of the snow could be over - and predicted a warmer New Year.

She said: "Christmas Eve going into Christmas Day was quite quiet although overnight temperatures went down to minus 8C, climbing to just above freezing during the day time.

"There was some cloud and fog around as well and of course the snowfall from earlier in the week was still on the ground.'' Boxing Day would be mostly windy and wet, she added.

"This will bring in warmer wet air which will then hit the cold air we have hanging over the country,'' she said. "This could freeze as it hits the cold areas.

"There is the potential for more heavy snow tonight going into tomorrow.

Severe "It is possible the snow could turn into rain, depending if the temperatures rise when the warm air comes in.'' But she said the run up to the New Year should be free from severe weather and added: "After Monday things quietens down again.

"It should be fairly dry with cloud and low temperatures but we don't foresee any extreme weather events like the past couple of weeks."

Meanwhile, the sales push starts today when a record number of shops will open, even though Boxing Day falls on a Sunday.

Shoppers are expected to spend pounds 22.5 billion in what is seen as a last hurrah before a year of austerity and belt-tightening. Retailers hope business will be boosted by shoppers beating the January 4 deadline for VAT going up from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

-17C in Midlands WEATHER experts last night revealed that December is on course to be the coldest since records began in 1910.

The news came as temperatures plunged around the country and dropped to an incredible -17C in Worcester in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The Highways Agency has also urged drivers to take care in difficult conditions today as people begin to move around to see relatives on Boxing Day or hit the sales.

The AA said Christmas Eve call-outs were 40 per cent above normal due to Christmas shopping and the festive getaway.

It estimated that it covered about 13,000 breakdowns by the end of 24 December, compared with just over 9,000 on a normal Friday.

TAKING THE PLUNGE: Clint Ford is the first man in to Blackroot Pool in Sutton Coldfield. Picture: Jon Fuller-Rowell


DOWNHILL RACERS: Families go sledging in Elmdon Park, Birmingham, including three year-old Kayleigh and Phil Miller, right. PLOUGHING ON: A lone car makes its way southbound at Junction 7 of the M5 near Worcester. TOUGH GOING: Residents are hit by heavy snow in Sheldon, here and left. GETTING HER KICKS: Megan Quinton, aged five, from Yardley, plays in the snow. TO THE RESCUE: Good Samaritans lend a hand in Birmingham city centre while the Blues' game, below, is snow-go...
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 26, 2010
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