Recent heavy bursts of snow across Britain will be replaced with milder temperatures next week, raising fears of flooding as the snow begins to melt.

But before the welcome respite arrives, a final heavy snowfall will hit Britain on Friday, focusing on northern England and southern Scotland which will see up to 15cm predicted in high ground.

Thursday will see only light flurries of snow compared to recent days, felt along the eastern coast and in the Midlands.

A sharp increase in temperature, possibly reaching in 10C in the south west on Sunday, will spark a rapid thaw and the Environment Agency has warned of minor localised flooding in some areas. It is coupled with rain crossing the south west on Friday and further showers over parts of the UK at the weekend.

It prompted advice from the Environment Agency urging people to build snowmen, as the compacted structures stay cold for longer and could help regulate the flow of water.

Roy Stokes, from the Agency, was reported as saying: "Ideally, if everybody built themselves a snowman that will slow the thaw down a bit. If you notice, when people clear their drive the snow thaws away but the compacted piles stay which will give a balanced thaw, which would be helpful."

A spokeswoman later said that building a snowman would have a limited impact on the rate of thawing.

Nick Prebble, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division for the Press Association, said: "Tomorrow will see a band of snow, sleet and rain come across from the west and push eastwards into Saturday morning. But that will be the last of the snow before an unsettled, milder week next week."

Southeastern Trains has cancelled a number of early morning trains in order to use the carriages on other services. It said Network Rail had asked it to run some of the early morning services with more carriages, because it makes the trains less likely to be affected by icy rails.

The severe weather has been blamed for at least nine deaths and has caused widespread disruption.The snow also forced the closure of hundreds of schools across Wales for a second day running and in Somerset, gritter crews have been working around the clock after nearly 15cm of snow.