Rail passengers have been told to avoid parts of south-west England and South Wales after heavy rain caused widespread flooding.

And motorists and shoppers faced difficult conditions on one of the busiest weekends of the year for travel and shopping.

Three severe flood warnings - which means there is a danger to life - were issued in Devon and Cornwall.

The town of Braunton in north Devon has been effectively cut off, with homes and shops under water, after the River Caen burst its banks.

Heavy rain was forecast to continue across much of the country throughout today as the Christmas getaway continued.

The Environment Agency (EA) said there was a heightened flood risk across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West and East Sussex, North Yorkshire, South Wales, Ceredigion and Gwynedd.

The First Great Western train company advised passengers whose travel was not essential to avoid any journeys west of Taunton in Somerset because of flooding and landslips. Arriva Trains Wales told passengers to avoid any rail travel in South Wales.

Both operators were using road vehicles to transport passengers, but efforts were hampered by a lack of vehicles and flooded roads.

Meanwhile, staff shortages and signalling problems caused disruption on London Midland services. Buses replaced trains on some routes, while passengers were warned of possible cancellations at short notice.

The Highways Agency said there were a handful of flooding incidents on the motorways but they were not causing significant delays.