Last updated: 22 Sep 2015

Top 20 Family Friendly Hotspots

This fourth edition of our unique annual Family Hotspots report analyses data across 71 different data sets and is designed to give you an understanding of the most affordable and desirable places for families to live in England and Wales.*

This year's report indicates a further shift in the Top 20 locations towards the Midlands and North of England. In 2013 nine of the Top 20 postcodes were in these regions, but this has risen to a record of 12 this year. Plus the number one slot this year goes to a newcomer in the Top 20, St.Bees in Cumbria, a small coastal village just south of the Scottish border.

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  1.    St Bees, Cumbria, CA27
  2.     Wokingham, Berkshire, RG41
  3.     Faringdon, Oxfordshire, SN7
  4.     Lower Earley, Berkshire, RG6
  5.     Swanland, East Yorkshire, HU14
  6.     Moor Row, Cumbria, CA24
  7.     Sandbach, Cheshire, CW11
  8.     Longridge, Lancashire, PR3
  9.     Hixon, Staffordshire, ST18
  10.     Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, CW4
  11.     Wooler, Northumberland, NE71
  12.     Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA15
  13.     Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU52
  14.     Crowthorne, Berkshire, RG45
  15.     Sandhurst, Berkshire, GU47
  16.     Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24
  17.     Cheadle, Staffordshire, ST10
  18.     Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire, HP18
  19.     Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7
  20.     Woodley, Berkshire, RG5

1. St Bees, Cumbria

St Bees, Cumbria

Photograph by Sumanah.

St Bees is a small coastal village just south of St Bees Head, the most westerly point of Cumbria, 50 miles from the Scottish border. The picturesque village has a population of 1,800 and has been a popular holiday destination for over 150 years. St Bees is a new addition to the Family Friendly Hotspots list in 2014, thanks in part to its excellent Key Stage 2 and 4 results, low crime rate and lower than average house price of £139,000. The village has a thriving community spirit, with local sports clubs and community events such as the Village Fete and the Annual Show of Flowers, Vegetables and Home Produce, which takes place every August. Unique local traditions include the annual Pram Race, a charity race, and the Tractor Trundle, a vintage tractor procession, both of which take place on Boxing Day every year. Rowan Atkinson is a former pupil of St Bees School, which continues its strong drama tradition with regular performances for the community.

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2. Wokingham, Berkshire

Wokingham, Berkshire

Photograph by Motacilla.

(number 6 in 2013)

Wokingham is an historic market town in Berkshire situated 33 miles west of London, with a population of over 35,000. Occupying sixth spot in 2013, Wokingham has improved its position in the Hotspots list this year thanks to higher than average Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 results and higher than average salary levels. Rising house prices keep it from the number one spot though – a two bed property costs £254,000 on average. Wokingham has a range of excellent private and state schools, several churches and an art gallery. Every year, the Wokingham Music, Food and Drink Festival showcases local musicians, local food producers and also wines, beers, and ciders from Berkshire and surrounding breweries.

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3. Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Photograph by Reading Tom.

(number 9 in 2013)

A market town Oxfordshire, Faringdon has risen up the Family Hotspots rankings to third place this year, thanks to the number of pre-schools and preparatory schools with above average Key Stage 2 results in the area. Sitting at the top of the Thames Valley, the town is nestled around the Parish Church which dates from the 13th century. Along with a leisure centre, a short stroll away you’ll find open fields and a network of footpaths to nearby villages. Faringdon became the first Fairtrade town in the South East of England and has since held an annual arts festival in early July. There are many clubs that run throughout the year, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, plus a range of art and music classes.

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4. Lower Earley, Berkshire

Lower Earley, Berkshire

Photograph by Rosalind Mitchell.

A large residential area to the east of Reading with good Key Stage 2 and 4 results, Lower Earley is popular with commuters to London looking for a family friendly place to live. This, and its proximity to Reading and Wokingham, is reflected in higher than average salaries for residents and while house prices are slightly above national average (£226,000 for an average two bed), they are lower than other commuter towns in the area. Local parks, a lake, leisure centres and a local pub with a regular quiz night contribute to the community feel. The Lower Earley Library holds regular storytelling sessions for babies, toddlers and under-fives, including Dad and Baby Rhymetime sessions. The area also has excellent shopping facilities, with an Asda and a Marks & Spencer on the doorstep.

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5. Swanland, East Riding of Yorkshire


Photograph by Chris Morgan.

(number 8 in 2013)

A picturesque village in the East Riding of Yorkshire, seven miles west of Kingston Upon Hull. Above average Key Stage Two and Four results and very low crime rates have contributed to Swanland rising up the Family Friendly Hotspots rankings, from eighth in 2013 to its current fourth place. The active local community is centred around the Village Hall which hosts a variety of events, from village fairs to dance lessons and concerts for the community. The Swanland Preservation Society has been running for over 25 years and is a dynamic force in keeping the area a pleasant place to live. At the centre of the village is a large pond around which are a number of listed houses and two churches. There are activities for children of all ages, including Cubs, Scouts, Brownie and Guide groups based in the village.

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6. Moor Row, Cumbria

Moor Row, Cumbria

Photograph by H Stamper.

A small village just outside the Lake District, Moor Row is one of the first or last stops on the Coast to Coast path for walkers and has a grand statue to mark the fact. With picturesque mountains on its Western side, the village has over 250 years of history, with its beginnings as an iron mining village giving way to Lake District tourism more recently. Employment opportunities are good thanks to the Lakes and the nearby Westlakes Science and Technology Park. Despite the nearby national park property prices are exceptionally low, while average wages are comparatively high, suggesting potential bargains for families looking to setup home. Despite its small size the village has a popular nursery and primary school with afterschool clubs available as well.

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7. Sandbach, Cheshire

Sandbach, Cheshire

Photograph by Colin Smith.

A classic market town with a thousand years of history, Sandbach lies between Crewe and Manchester. Its picturesque Old Hall, built during the era of the Stuarts, and 7th - 9th century Sandbach crosses are popular tourist attractions. The town has a wide array of leisure activities and social clubs including the local rugby, football and cricket clubs, a monthly farmers market, an annual transport festival, running club, folk club and choral society. Perhaps most famous of all is its award winning brass band, Foden’s Band, established in 1900. Despite all this property prices are significantly below the national average while the town boasts good schools, particularly for secondary education where GCSE Maths and English A* - C grades are significantly above the national average. In total the town has three primaries and two secondaries, one of which is Sandbach School, one of the first free schools in England.

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8. Longridge, Lancashire

Longridge, Lancashire

Photograph by Kevin Hale.

(number 11 in 2013)

Last year Longridge, which is in the Ribble Valley just south of the Forest of Bowland, came in at number 11 in the top 20 Hotspots. This year it rises three places to number 8 as it continues to boast above average education, while property prices have only ticked up slightly and broadly in line with average salaries, in contrast to other parts of the country. Traditionally a quarry town, Longridge’s appearance has changed significantly in recent years as a result of new housing developments. Considering its size, the town has all the amenities a family could need. Nine pubs and a variety of restaurants provide a range of choice for meals out while Longridge also has a public library and several primary and high schools. The monthly farmer’s market attracts food lovers and locals gather for the annual ‘Field Day’ with a parade and fundraising attractions.

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9. Hixon, Staffordshire

Hixon, Staffordshire

Photograph by Geoff Pick.

Hixon scored highly in 2013 as well and this year makes it into the top 20. The village of 2,000 people is a few miles north of picturesque Cannock Chase. There are good employment opportunities with a cluster of industries at the nearby airfield, formerly an RAF base, while families can enjoy a meal and good company at the 400 year old village pub, the Bank House Inn. Hixon has excellent education opportunities for children, especially at the secondary level where over 80% secure A* – C grades in English and Maths at GCSE. Crime is exceptionally low while average 2-bed property prices are £10,000 below the national average despite average salaries being slightly above.

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10. Holmes Chapel, Cheshire


Photograph by Peter Whatley.

Located 20 miles south of Manchester, Holmes Chapel is home to 5,700 people including its most famous son – One Direction’s Harry Styles. A popular and active village, Holmes Chapel has numerous facilities and activities including a library, swimming pool, beauty spa, golf, photography and scout clubs, a music society and an annual Christmas market. The village is also well known for its education record with the two primary schools and one secondary, which became an academy in 2011, regularly scoring high marks from Ofsted. Property prices are slightly above the national average, though crime is exceptionally low.

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11. Wooler, Northumberland

Wooler, Northumbria

Photograph by Richard Slessor.

Nestled high on the edge of Northumberland National Park and the Cheviot Hills, the picture postcard Wooler is a small, stone-built market town of 2,000 people. Known as a hotspot for outdoor activities, Wooler boasts a range of family friendly activites and amenities including a local haunted castle and light railway. The high street boasts lots of independent shops while for sporting parents there is the local golf club, running club and annual Wooler Wheel cycling races around the town and surrounding hills. The local primary and middle schools rate well on Key Stage 2 scores and early years facilities are above average as well. Property prices are far below the national average with a two bed home costing an average of £110,000, though average salaries are likewise lower than elsewhere.

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12. Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria

Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria

Photograph by Mike F.

The second largest town on the Furness peninsula, south of the Lake District, Dalton-in-Furness is home to 8,000 people and Cumbria’s only Zoo, South Lakes Wildlife Park, which is recognised for its focus on animal conservation. Dalton’s four primary schools and one secondary school all rate as above average for children attending, while parents looking to buy a home can snap up a two bed property for nearly £100,000 less than the national average. For sporting families there is plenty of action to be had too, with the town’s two football clubs, rugby league and cricket club, all of which run sides for youngsters. There is also a leisure centre and swimming pool for splashing around while the town hosts an annual carnival, regular farmers and creative/craft markets and a Christmas market.

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13. Church Crookham, Hampshire

Church Crookham, Hampshire

Photograph by David Medcalf.

(number 12 in 2013)

On the edge of the town of Fleet near world-famous Farnborough, Church Crookham is a bright and green suburban village once famous as the home of the Gurkha regiment. Today it is home to luxury mobile phone maker Vertu and achieved fame in 2002 as a filming location for James Bond movie, Die Another Day. The village is home to a number of family friendly pubs and restaurants while leisure activities include Crookham Rovers junior football club, the Crookham Players drama group, and the local Garden Society, this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. The village has three primary schools and Key Stage 2 scores are above the national average. Crime is low and average salaries are significantly above the national average, though property prices reflect this as well.

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14. Crowthorne, Berkshire

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Photograph by R4vi.

(number 2 in 2013)

Most famous for the prestigious Wellington College to the east, Crowthorne is an affluent village between Farnborough and Wokingham. For non-fee paying parents education is equally strong with 4 primaries and 1 secondary school in Crowthorne and a range of nurseries as well. Both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 average scores are above the national average while crime in the village is very low. There are lots of leisure activities for families and young children in Crowthorne with a range of sporting clubs including cricket, rugby, tennis and archery and nearby Pinewood leisure centre and miniature railway. The village also has active Cub, Scout, Brownie and Guide groups. Perhaps the village’s biggest event though is the biennial carnival, held under a different theme every two years in July. As might be expected, property prices are above the national average though salaries are as well.

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15. Sandhurst, Berkshire

Sandhurst, Berkshire

Photograph by Brendan and Ruth McCartney.

A bustling town of 20,000 people Sandhurst is home to the world famous military academy that has educated Princes William and Harry among others. Despite the prestigious academy and proximity to London property prices are only a little above the national average at £220,000 while average salaries are comfortably above average at nearly £27,000. The town features lots of recreational space including several parks and the Yateley Lakes area on its western side. School performance is strong with several primary schools and nurseries as well as Sandhurst secondary school. There is also lots to do for families with junior football and cricket clubs and the town’s most fun day out at the annual Donkey Derby races. Finally, adventurous parents can join the Sandhurst Tug of War team – crowned world champions three times.

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16. Settle, North Yorkshire

Settle, North Yorkshire

Photograph by Alexander P Kapp.

Nestled between the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales and the northern tip of the Forest of Bowland, Settle is a classic small market town with a well-attended weekly market on Tuesdays. There is a wealth of leisure activities, indoors and out for families in the town while older children can tackle the nearby Yorkshire Three Peaks with their parents. Other activities include the annual Storytelling Festival which attracts artists from across the world, a falconry centre, cave tours, a leisure centre, the world’s smallest art gallery (inside a converted BT telephone box) and the picturesque Settle to Carlisle railway line journey. The town has one primary and one secondary school, both of which score above the national average while house prices are low.

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17. Cheadle, Staffordshire

Cheadle, Staffordshire

Photograph by 'gpmg'.

Halfway between Manchester and Birmingham, Cheadle is a market town of 12,000 people. Children will delight in the fact that it is only a few miles away from the Alton Towers theme park, while parents will welcome the low crime rate and above average Key Stage 2 and 4 school results. Cheadle is also home to a large JCB factory and while average salaries are a fraction below the national level, two bed property prices are £60,000 below the average, making the town an affordable choice for young families. The local football, golf, cricket and running clubs provide plenty of activities for families while there are a number of parks and wildlife attractions within a few miles.

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18. Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire

Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire

Photograph by David Hawgood.

A picture perfect English village complete with thatched roofs and often used to film episodes of Midsomer Murders, Long Crendon lies east of Oxford. The village has one primary school, which scores above the national Key Stage 2 average and a range of sports clubs for children as well as active scouts, cubs and beaver groups. There are two family friendly pubs, a gastropub restaurant and a local brewing company which makes a range of beers and ciders for parents to try. As might be expected in Buckinghamshire, property prices are higher than the national average, while salaries are only a fraction above the national rate. However the low crime rate and ideal village living make up for this.

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19. Clitheroe, Lancashire

Clitheroe, Lancashire

Photograph by Robert Wade.

A classic Lancashire market town, Clitheroe is home to 14,000 people and lies in the Ribble Valley just south of the Forest of Bowland. The town has a thriving sense of community with annual Spring and Food festivals, several sports and activity clubs and an annual cycle race. The Ribble Valley Jazz Festival is also held each year in the town bringing Lancashire’s finest musicians together. The love of food runs strongly in the town, especially when it comes to sausages with an annual Sausage Day in January and the well-known Cowman’s Sausage Shop selling over 70 varieties. Children will also enjoy exploring the local castle while parents will approve of the above average school scores, especially for the town’s three secondary schools. House prices are also below the national average with a two bed property costing only £140,000 despite salaries being at about the national average.

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20. Woodley, Berkshire

Woodley, Berkshire

Photograph by Mike McMillan.

(number 14 in 2013)

A town of 35,000 people next door to Reading, Woodley again makes it into the top 20 this year, though it does fall several places from 2013. The bustling town has a wide range of shops and hosts regular Saturday and Farmers markets for locals. The town has two secondary schools, both of which have achieved specialist school status, and a string of primaries while it also enjoys a very low crime rate. Property prices are above the national average with a two bed costing £228,000, though average wages are also high, suggesting strong employment opportunities. The town is famous for its aviation history and is home to the Museum of Berkshire Aviation, while there are plenty of other attractions and activities for children including two leisure centres, a number of sports teams and local scout groups, community dance and theatre groups and the annual Woodley Winter Extravaganza.

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Because of the way the differences in the way data such as crime and education statistics are reported and collated in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we unfortunately couldn’t find an accurate way of including it this time around. Postcodes without a residential population such as business parks and warehouse areas were also discounted from the final results. If your postcode is not coming up in this search, we suggest you try your next closest postcode.