Brighton, a popular seaside resort an hour’s train ride south of London, was crammed on Tuesday with beachgoers escaping the hottest day in Britain’s recorded history.
A few days earlier a local newspaper had warned the city would be “hotter than Hawaii,” and the message had clearly been received: By noon, the pebbled beaches were a jumble of scarlet parasols and towels, the sea a mosaic of swimmers and paddle boarders, the occasional scooter slicing through the emerald water.
Despite the heat, in-line skaters, joggers and cyclists whizzed along the promenade, while beachside courts played host to basketball and volleyball games.
Awaiting his turn at basketball was Bibson Riaz, 22, who had traveled to Brighton from Stratford, East London, to stay with relatives in anticipation of the extreme heat.
But Mr. Riaz wasn’t going to let the sun disrupt his plans: “As soon as I heard there was going to be a heat wave, basketball was the first thing on my mind. It’s hot, but I’m going to swim in the sea afterwards.”
Brighton has been a destination for Londoners since the Regency period of the early 1800s, when the well-to-do would flock to the seafront’s grand terraces and squares to escape the city’s smog. Now it’s a tourist’s paradise, known as a left-leaning enclave filled with vegan restaurants that hosts Britain’s biggest LGBTQ+ Pride festival.
While transport services urged Britons not to travel as temperatures soared to record levels, fearing overcrowding and the expansion of train tracks, Brighton’s proximity to London made it too desirable to resist.
Carolyn Mancini, 70, traveled from Glasgow to visit her daughter. Because of issues with the tracks, the journey had been “nightmarish,” taking 12 hours instead of the expected six. “I just can’t wrap my head around how, with a speck of unexpected weather problems, the whole country just falls apart,” she said
As the heat rose through the afternoon, many sought refuge in the shade of Brighton Pier, while the children’s playground was left deserted, its equipment too hot to touch.
With local authorities worried about heat-related illness, ambulances were stationed along the promenade. Lifeguard Adam Riley, 31said he and his colleagues logged more incidents, including heat exhaustion and distress while swimming, on Monday than they normally do in two weeks.
“When people suffer from heat exhaustion they take more risks, and there’s a lot of antisocial behavior that comes with that,” said Mr. Riley. He added, “There’s nothing wrong with using the seafront or the beach on hot days, but when alcohol gets involved people lose their sense of judgment, and might swim beyond their ability.”
Graduates of the University of Sussex, located in Brighton, posed for photographs with the shimmering sea as backdrop, wearing thick ceremonial gowns. The university awarded diplomas in absentia to those for whom the heat and rail disruptions had prevented attendance.
Kathleen Woodson, 33, who had just graduated with a master’s degree, celebrated by hopping into the sea fully dressed. “I’ve lived in Tokyo and South Africa,” she said, “and this is the worst heat I’ve experienced.”
By 6 pm rain began to fall, temperatures dropping considerably. The shift was met with gasps of relief after a long day in the blazing sun.