Best of both worlds: the commuter homes hotspots offering the highest quality of life

Some of the best countryside areas in Britain are within two hours of the capital, according to Halifax’s Rural Quality of Life Survey.

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This week London was named as the world’s most expensive city to live and work in. so it's no surprise that people are moving further afield in order to achieve a good quality of life.

A new nationwide survey of the best “rural” existences (otherwise known as Halifax’s Rural Quality of Life Survey) is monopolised by places with easy access to the Big Smoke.

The lure of London means 16 commuter districts in the south east are among the top 50 places in the country to live, according to the report.

This year South Oxfordshire claimed the top spot with residents scoring best in the health, finances and happiness stakes.

Four out of five people who live there are in employment, with high weekly earnings of £863 (compared to the national average £509 per week) and reasonable living costs (house prices are 6.9 times the average income, compared to 12.6 times in London).

According to the 2011 census, more people in South Oxfordshire commute to London (45 per cent) than work in local offices (32 per cent). So, it's no surprise that the flurry of money coming in from the capital while the locality remains relatively affordable is contributing to a good quality of life.

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The historic market town Godalming in the borough of Waverley is popular with commuters because it takes less than 50 minutes into London Waterloo


A staggering 97 per cent of people living in the area report themselves to be in good health (especially considering the British propensity for hypochondria) and life expectancy among both sexes is years higher than average.

But before you flock to South Oxfordshire you might want to look at the other London-centric rural hotspots that have ranked highly on this year's list. 

A close second is Chiltern which has an employment rate similar to South Oxfordshire at 80 per cent and where, according to the census, 50 per cent of workers commute outside of the locality.

Chiltern residents also enjoy high incomes with weekly average earnings of £912 – that’s 46 per cent more than the average for all rural areas. This might be why there are so many large houses in the Buckinghamshire region – having on average 6.4 rooms.

Waverley District, which encompasses Godalming, Farnham and Haslemere, came fourth in this year’s Halifax survey; while South Cambridgeshire and East Cambridgeshire came fifth and seventh respectively.

Tonbridge, pictured, is among the many popular destinations on London's commuter belt to be included in the best 'rural' locations list


Top 16 commuter destinations for Londoners
South Oxfordshire 1
Chiltern 2
Waverley 4
South Cambridgeshire 5
East Cambridgeshire 7
Mid Sussex 9
Vale of White Horse 12
Tonbridge and Malling 13
New Forest 15
East Hampshire 16
West Oxfordshire 19
West Berkshire 23
Wealdon 27
Test Valley 28
Tandridge 32
Arun 39

Source: Halifax Rural Quality of Life Survey 2016


“Many of the towns in the top 20 are either within commuting distance to the capital or another major city,” says Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax.

“With South Oxfordshire particularly, the residents can enjoy the financial benefits of working in London and still have the rural lifestyle.”

Outside of the south east the top 50 included 12 local authorities in the west of England, ten in the south west and seven in the east Midlands, three up north, one in Scotland and another in Wales.

The village of Fingest in the Chilterns which came second on the Halifax Rural Quality of Life Survey


According to Savills, accommodation for the average Londoner comes to a massive £80,700 a year (calculated as a total of housing and office rental costs) making the city more expensive than 19 other world cities such as New York (£79,600) and Hong Kong (£73,800).

If the London commuter belt continues to prove so attractive as an alternative, the UK may soon find itself with the most expensive countryside in the world as well. 


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