Chris Radburn/PA Wire


Residents of East Cambridgeshire (pictured) have the best quality of life of any rural area in Great Britain, according to the latest Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey.

In fact, Cambridgeshire occupies two of the top three positions, with neighbouring South Cambridgeshire - last year's winner - in third place.

So what makes it such a great place to live, and where else in the British countryside made the top 20?


Why is East Cambridgeshire a great place to live?

Residents tend to be fit and well with 93 per cent reporting general good health, and have the joint highest life expectancy amongst rural areas - 4 years more than the UK average. The employment rate is high, at 79 per cent, and many residents enjoy relatively high incomes with weekly average earnings of £707.
On top of all this, enjoying a high quality of life in East Cambridgeshire does not come at a particularly high cost either. The average house price in the area is 5.3 times local annual gross earnings, which is below the average house price to earnings ratio for all rural areas - proving that, as Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, comments "a high standard of living doesn't have to come at a high price."

North vs South

Rural residents in the South East typically enjoy a good quality of life, with almost a third of the 50 rural local authority districts with the highest quality of life in the South East. And areas in the south of England typically perform better on average earnings, employment, health and weather.

Average earnings are highest in Chiltern (£893 per week) followed by Waverley (£857), South Oxfordshire (£825), and East Hertfordshire (£814).

Good health scores are highest in South Cambridgeshire, Chiltern, South Oxfordshire, and West Berkshire with 95 per cent of households rating themselves in good or fairly good health.
Life expectancy is highest in East Cambridgeshire, North Dorset, East Dorset and Rutland (all 82 years), followed by South Cambridgeshire and Purbeck in Dorset (both 81 years).

Meanwhile in the north of Britain, rural areas receive some of the highest ratings for school exam results, environmental measures (such as low population densities and low traffic flows) and lower house prices compared to local earnings.

Traffic flows are lowest in Scotland, which has 8 of the 10 best ranked districts on this measure, and the country also boasts some of the smallest primary school classes in the Britain. The Shetland Islands is the top performer in school exam results with 91 per cent of 16 year olds gaining five or more awards at SCQF level 4.
The most affordable rural local authority district for residential property is Pendle, followed by East Ayrshire and North Lincolnshire, while the lowest burglary rates are in the Western Isles and the Orkney Islands.

The best weather

That all-important factor for the Brits -the lowest average annual rainfall of all the districts is in Maldon in Essex (552 mm), and seven of the ten driest districts in Great Britain are in the East of England.
Meanwhile the sunniest place in Great Britain is the Isle of Wight where residents enjoy an average of 37.4 hours of sunshine a week.

Top 20 rural areas for quality of life

1. East Cambridgeshire, East of England
2. Wychavon, West Midlands
3. South Cambridgeshire, East of England
4. East Hertfordshire, East of England
5. Waverley, South East
6. Aylesbury Vale, South East
7. Rushcliffe, East Midlands
8. Uttlesford, East of England
9. Rutland, East Midlands
10. Chiltern, South East
11. Huntingdonshire, East of England
12. South Oxfordshire, South East
13. North Kesteven, East Midlands
14. Test Valley, South East
15. Mid Sussex, South East
16. Vale of White Horse, South East
17. Maldon, East of England
18. Tonbridge and Malling, South East
19. East Northamptonshire, East Midlands