Icy winds and heavy snow storms swept across Britain today, causing chaos for drivers and closing hundreds of schools.

Thousands of children got a day off school as sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow forced around 200 schools in the North-West to close.

Many youngsters took advantage of the unexpected day off to wrap up warm, get their sledges out and enjoy the snow-covered fields.

Hazardous driving conditions caused a number of accidents with cars skidding on the icy roads as yesterday's rain turned to ice as temperatures plunged as low as minus 4C in places.

Elsewhere, huge tailbacks formed as commuters struggled to get into work in the freezing weather.

Forecasters said about an inch of snow fell on hills in the region, creating poor driving conditions and resulting in 200 school closures across Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Lancashire, Bury and Bolton were the worst affected.

Scotland was the first place to be hit with black ice and snow storms forcing many roads to close.

Forecasters issued a severe weather warning as the sudden cold snap caused treacherous conditions across much of the country.

Signs along the M6 and M61 warned motorists to slow down due to poor visibility and the icy roads.

About an inch of snow is expected in the north of England today, with just sleet and rain more likely in the South, according to forecasters.

As children played in the snow, one surfer even braved the freezing water in Tynemouth in North-East England as snow blanketed the frozen beach.

The colder weather is being blown down on northerly winds from the Arctic.

Forecaster Victoria Kettney, from MeteoGroup, said the weather was expected to get much worse in the next 48 hours.

'Overnight Wednesday a warm front of air from the west will hit a colder front, causing snow,' she said.

'The worst-hit areas will be the east of the UK, with heavy snow expected in Scotland and the North of England.

'Up to four inches of snow are predicted on high ground in Scotland, while around 1.5 inches could fall on high areas in the North of England.'The snowfall will continue into Thursday and will be followed by rain.'

More snow is forecast for the early hours of tomorrow across central Wales, the West of England and the Thames Valley.

The morning will also be icy after another night of frosts and by Thursday, the North-East could also see snow.

However towards the weekend temperatures are expected to move up into double figures.

It's not mild and we have become accustomed to mild winters. This is a reminder we have been spoilt over the last few years,' said Met Office spokesman John Hammond.

But despite the wintry weather, November was warmer and drier than average.

Latest Met Office figures reveal that the average daytime temperature in November was 6.2C (43.2f) compared with the long-term average for the month of 5.9C (42.6f).

Last month, there was 104.5mm (4.1in) of rain, compared with the 118mm (4.6in) typical for November.

This year, November was also slightly duller than usual, with 57.2 hours of sunshine, compared with the normal 58.7 hours.

The snow of the last week has led to a flurry of bets on a White Christmas.

William Hill is offering 5/1 that there will be snow in London on December 25.

'With less than four weeks to go we are getting a little nervous about the amount of money we will have to pay out if it snows,' admitted spokesman Rupert Adams.

'We will pay out well over £1million if it snows in all the cities we bet on.'

The first snow of this winter fell in England in October.