Heavy snowfall has hit much of southern England and Wales, leaving hundreds of people trapped in cars as temperatures plummeted.

Snow is lying at least 12cm deep on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, and 5cm has been recorded in Sennybridge, Powys, according to the Met Office.

Temperatures in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, plunged to minus 14.5C (5.9F) on Thursday evening, which is the lowest temperature recorded anywhere in the UK since 2012, according to the Met Office.

The snowfall already exceeds the maximum 10cm of snowfall that was predicted when the forecaster issued a severe weather warning for Thursday.

The snow, which has been travelling eastwards, has reached as far as Wiltshire, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent, with a few flakes in central London.

British Airways has cancelled or merged a number of short-haul flights from Heathrow Airport because of the adverse weather conditions.

Cornwall Airport, which is near Newquay, was forced to temporarily close on Thursday because of the snow, and around 100 cars got stuck on a nearby stretch of the A30 by Temple.

An “intensive effort” is under way to help the motorists, according to Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, head of roads policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

Winter weather Jan 31st 2019Cars stuck in the snow on the A30 (Matt Argyle/PA)

Matt Argyle, 46, who got stuck on the A30 travelling eastbound near Temple, said he had been sat in the same spot for five hours.

He told the Press Association: “A police search and rescue vehicle has just driven past, but that’s the first service vehicle I’ve seen.

“There’s no cars on the other side of the road so it must be completely blocked somewhere.”

The IT specialist has managed to stay warm using a sleeping bag and extra clothes he had packed in his car.

Journalism student Georgette Beacham, 28, got caught in the snow while returning from Plymouth to Falmouth.

She said: “Everyone was driving slowly but particularly on the hills, cars were jack-knifing and people were getting stuck going up hill and skidding going down hill and having to pull over.”

A plough and a gritter have been sent to help the drivers who are backed up along the snow-coated carriageway, according to images on social media.

There were also vehicles stuck on the A39 between Winnards Perch and Wagebridge, and Cornwall Council tweeted: “Please stay with your car. We have gritters on the way and they will clear the roads as quickly as possible.”

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service said motorists were stuck on the A38 near Haldon Hill and the A380 near Ideford Dip.

Winter weather Jan 31st 2019An ice cream van stops to ply his trade on an housing estate in Merthyr Tydfil as snow begins to fall (PA)

Emergency services have warned drivers to stay in their cars and keep warm.

Across Devonshire 34 schools have said they will be closed or partially closed on Friday and 35 schools across Cornwall have also said they will not be opening, according to the two county councils.

The Met Office tweeted: “Snow, initially moving north and east across parts of southern and southwestern England, the Midlands and Wales, will stall and tend to fragment.

“Wintry showers will continue in northern and eastern areas. Ice is likely in many parts overnight.”

There are “treacherous driving conditions in places”, the forecaster added.

WEATHER Snow(PA Graphics)

Snow depths of 8cm in Cumbria and 7cm in Inverness-shire were also recorded by the Met Office on Thursday evening, although this is believed to be mostly leftover from Wednesday.

Commuters in many parts of the country were warned to leave work early on Thursday to ensure they got home.

South Western Railway has already warned passengers that trains may be cancelled on Friday morning while work is done to check and clear the tracks.