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Athletics hero Steve Cram joined other Hexham residents in extolling the virtues of the town that has been named Britain’s happiest place to live for the second time in three years.
The well-appointed market town in Northumberland’s Tyne Valley came top of Rightmove’s “happy at home” index, now in its 10th year, which asked more than 21,000 people across Britain how they feel about various aspects of where they live.
Its historic town centre, complete with 800-year-old market place and abbey, has independent shops, bars and restaurants, clean streets and a leaf-strewn park.
Happiness measures in the Rightmove index include friendliness and community spirit, whether people feel they can be themselves, nature and green spaces, opportunities locally to develop skills and amenities including schools, restaurants, shops and sports facilities.
Close to Hexham is the fabulous scenery of the Tyne with its leaping salmon, Hadrian’s Wall and enough activities to fill any keen outdoors person’s weekends.
Cram, who runs his events business Events of the North from the Tyne Valley, told the PA news agency: “Having lived in the Hexham region for well over 17 years now I’m delighted to hear it’s retained its status as the Happiest Place to Live in the UK.
“You’ll not fail to receive a warm welcome wherever you go in our traditional market town and I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth and development of the area, drawing new people into our happy community. It’s a jewel of the Tyne Valley.”
The average price tag on a house in Hexham is £297,088 – just a quarter of that in the leafy London suburb of Richmond, which was ranked second and has an average house asking price which is just shy of £1.2 million.
Hexham also has lower asking prices for homes than the average across Britain of £342,401.
Michael Nelson, managing director of Hexham-based Multichem – which exports ink products to 40 countries, said: “For a small town we are ruined with really good restaurants and bars.
“It’s in the heart of the countryside and that’s why it is such a desirable place to live.”
Billy Atkinson runs a fruit and veg stall in the marketplace beside the abbey, and said: “Our customers are really nice people.
“The people who are well-to-do are not at all snobbish. The town is clean, tidy and respectable.”
Retired French teacher Nigel Trott, 71, has lived in the town centre for 48 years and “loves it”.
He said: “The absolute joy is being able to walk through the park on the way in to the town centre.
“There is a mentality where people look after each other.
“There’s no anonymity, everyone knows everyone else’s business.
“I think it’s the human connectedness that makes it happy.”
The Rev Nigel Warner and his wife Mary a former hospital chaplain, turned down York to retire in Hexham after she visited a friend in the town.
He said: “We changed our plans and I am very glad to be here.
“The abbey is a great draw for two retired priests, we have the cultural life of the Queen’s Hall and there are transport links to other parts of the North East.”
Artist Claudia Sacher moved to the town from Germany with her doctor husband 20 years ago, and she regretted that it has become busier.
She said: “I loved it so much but it has changed. There are lots of new families who are moving to Hexham, which is nice.”
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said: “From our brilliant schools, to our stunning Abbey and excellent farmers’ market – it’s no surprise that Hexham has once again been rated the happiest place to live!
“Our town is a gateway to Hadrian’s Wall and the Northumberland National Park. It’s the perfect mix of town and countryside. If you don’t live here, I urge you to visit and see what we have to offer!”
Harrogate in North Yorkshire, with its Victorian spa heritage, boutique shops and afternoon tea establishments, took the third spot.
Stirling was identified as the happiest place to live in Scotland, while Llandrindod Wells was named the happiest place to live in Wales.
Here are the happiest places in Britain, according to Rightmove, with the average asking price for a home and the average monthly asking rental price:
1. Hexham, North East, £297,088, £842
2. Richmond-upon-Thames, London, £1,196,892, £3,235
3. Harrogate, Yorkshire and the Humber, £353,624, £1,163
4. Hove, South East £525,906, £1,879
5. Llandrindod Wells, Wales, £193,601, £445
6. Stirling, Scotland, £191,226, £877
7. Monmouth, Wales, £312,649, £929
8. St Ives, South West, £494,393, £1,150
9. Anglesey, Wales, £278,391, £776
10. Leamington Spa, West Midlands, £350,981, £1,203
11. Perth, Scotland, £167,160, £679
12. Hitchin, East of England, £491,223, £1,392
13. Woodbridge, East of England, £427,542, £1,129
14. Kendal, North West, £258,961, £837
15. Macclesfield, North West, £277,772, £981
16. Exeter, South West, £303,215, £1,234
17. Salisbury, South West, £318,806, £1,090
18. Horsham, South East, £433,892, £1,433
19. St Albans, East of England, £632,320, £1,888
20. Guildford, South East, £542,947, £1,913
Here are the happiest places to live in England’s regions, according to Rightmove, with the national ranking in brackets:
– East Midlands, Chesterfield (68)
– West Midlands, Leamington Spa (10)
– East of England, Hitchin (12)
– London, Richmond-upon-Thames (2)
– North East, Hexham (1)
– North West, Kendal (14)
– Yorkshire and the Humber, Harrogate (3)
– South East, Hove (4)
– South West, St Ives (8)
And here are Scotland’s top 10 happiest places to live with the overall rankings across Britain in brackets:
1. Stirling (6)
2. Perth (11)
3. Inverness (51)
4. Edinburgh (76)
5. Dundee (80)
6. Ayr (94)
7. Glasgow (98)
8. Kirkcaldy (141)
9. Paisley (149)
10. Aberdeen (156)
And here are Wales’s top 10 happiest places to live with the overall rankings across Britain in brackets:
1. Llandrindod Wells (5)
2. Monmouth (7)
3. Anglesey (9)
4. Llandudno (58)
5. Bridgend (62)
6. Cardiff (82)
7. Wrexham (99)
8. Swansea (122)
9. City of Newport (203)
10. Caerphilly (206)