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Top 20 places in England and Wales for families

The map shows the top 20 ranked hotspots throughout England and Wales. In total, 71 different sets of data across six criteria (education, childcare, safety, property, amenities and population) were analysed for each location and attributed either a positive or negative score. An overall score for each postcode was then calculated giving us the top 20 for 2017.

 

Illustration of a kite.

1. Lower Earley, Berkshire (RG6)

Jumping from number five to number one, Lower Earley is a suburb and private estate to the east of Reading established in 1977. With nearly 38,000 residents Lower Earley is popular both with commuters to London (the journey into London takes just over an hour) and those working in nearby Reading. The easy commute means that Lower Earley residents enjoy an average annual salary nearly £7,000 over the national average at £29,042.

Lower Earley boosts excellent Key Stage Two and Four results, all out performing the national averages with 75% of students achieving A*-C in mathematics and English.

Local parks, a lake, leisure centres and a local pub with a regular quiz night contribute to the community feel. The crime per capita ratio is a mere 0.08 to the national average of 0.21. The Lower Earley Library holds regular storytelling sessions for babies, toddlers and under-fives, as well as board games club, art and crafts and knit and natter.

Archway and paved garden of the Earley Retreat and Lower Earley.

2. Wokingham, Berkshire (RG41)

A park bench and lake in Wokingham.

With a population of over 28,000, Wokingham is a historic market town in Berkshire, situated just 33 miles west of central London. Records show that it held its first market in 1219 and today it is well equipped with various facilities from a range of above-average performing primary and secondary schools, to several churches and an art gallery.

No stranger to fame, the town has also featured in film and TV including Primeval, Superman and The Vicar of Dibley. Wokingham has also grown its own talent being the birthplace of both Pop Idol winner Will Young (2002) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) actor Nicholas Hoult. What’s more, its proximity to London, with trains going to Waterloo taking a little over an hour, makes it an ideal home for commuters. This may explain the affluence of the area as the average salary is £29,042. This combined with its very low crime rates – nearly 3,800 below the national average - means it’s a very popular area for families with children of all ages.

3. Oakham, Rutland (LE15)

Within commuting distance of Leicester and a population of around 32,000 is Oakham. A site of great historic interest, Oakham is home to the 14th Century All Saints Church, which is situated in the heart of the town and is the largest Church in the smallest county. Oakham is also home to the remains of the Norman Oakham Castle and the Rutland County Museum. The Rutland County Museum and Visitor Centre tell the story of the county with exhibitions of archaeology, history and rural life, supported by a regular programme of activities for all the family to enjoy throughout the year.

The low crime rates of 0.08 per capita and affordable housing - an average two bed property is nearly £40,000 below the national average - could also explain its popularity with families. Hourly trains to Leicester take only 26 minutes, Peterborough 31 and Stamford 15. The A1 hangs a left just to the east, a 15-minute drive away, meaning residents can enjoy both small town life and a good salary.

Oakham town centre.

4. Church Crookham, Hampshire (GU52)

The Olde Horns pub in Church Crookham.

Nestled below the town of Fleet, Church Crookham is a small village and civil parish in north-east Hampshire and the highest new entry in our Hotspots top 20. There are excellent rail links from Fleet to London; commuters and consumers can be in the capital city in less than an hour. This access, as well as to the more immediate Woking, Guildford and Reading, means the average annual salary is relatively high at £28,075, nearly £6,000 above the national average.

In July 2016, Church Crookham’s Tweseldown Infant School was greenlit for a £1.7m expansion plan, part of a £18.4m investment into education facilities across Hampshire. This move will bolster the local school’s sterling Key Stage Two and Key Stage Four results, which are significantly above the national average; 84% of schools reported A*-C grades in mathematics and English at Key Stage Four level. These statistics coupled with the low crime rate – a mere third of the national average – means number four in our top 20 is a great place to raise children. However, property isn’t cheap, with an average two bedroom setting you back by £319,358.

5. Ivybridge, Devon (PL21)

Ivybridge is found in rural Devon on the southern point of Dartmoor National Park. As its name would suggest, Ivybridge is a small, leafy town situated on the river Erme with rolling green vistas to the north. Experiencing a period of rapid growth throughout the 1980s and 90s, the town still has a relatively small population of 17,389. And although the average annual salary is slightly below the national at £19,583, Ivybridge has a very low crime rate and two bedroom properties are affordable at £178,114. Ivybridge also boasts twice the national average for educational establishments rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

For many of Ivybridge’s commuters the A38 allows fast access to nearby cities Plymouth and Exeter as well as the picturesque town of Totnes. These facts combined with plenty of community sports clubs, from rugby and football to sea scouts and martial arts, means this quaint English village is a fantastic place to start and raise a family.

Ivybridge main street.

6. Cullompton, Devon (EX15)

A thatched cottage by a country road in Cullompton.

A mid-Devon town with a population of just over 21,000, Cullompton is popular with commuters having a direct and frequent train service to both Exeter and Bristol and speedy access to the M5. Despite the number of commuters the average property is still affordable with a two bed property being just £167,356, nearly £40,000 below the national average.

Mentioned by King Alfred in his will, the town showed first signs of occupancy in Roman times at the two forts situated just above the town. Nowadays there is an active local community; the town centre is host to the oldest farmers market in the South West. Granted a licence to sell in 1278, the market is held on the second Saturday of every month.

Young children love the local Diggerland with an endless stream of tractor and digger rides to keep them amused, whilst adventurous parents can take it to a whole new level with digger racing parties for over 17s only. Benefitting from milder weather and having great Key Stage Two and Key Stage Four results means it is a popular place for families to settle.

7. Ottery St. Mary, Devon (EX11)

Located on the river Otter about 10 miles east of Exeter, Ottery St Mary is steeped in history and cultural traditions. From burning tar barrels on Guy Fawkes’ night to Pixie Day in June, the rural town is brimming with a unique heritage.

It makes its first appearance in our top 20 this year, storming into the top 10 at number seven. Boasting well above the national average for both Key Stage Two and Four, nearly half of Ottery’s schools have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. House prices are affordable at £209,004 for a two bedroom property and the crime rate is low with only one robbery reported between 2013 and 2016.

Despite rail and road links to Exeter and Exmouth being strong, the annual salary is slightly less than the country’s average at £20,509. But the sleepy village is located on the edge of the East Devon area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and with the coast to the south, Ottery St Mary is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and breath-taking views.

Ottery St Mary main street.

8. Twyford, Berkshire (RG10)

Twyford high street.

Tucked in the Thames Valley with strong rail and road links to Reading, Maidenhead, Henley and further afield, London, Twyford is in the English Royal county of Berkshire. This regal heritage is best exemplified by the story of the King of Wessex (Alfred the Great) who escaped his Viking pursuers in the fallout of the Battle of Reading by crossing the River Loddon that still runs through Twyford today.

As an affluent commuter town, property prices are high with the average two bedroom costing £386,518 - £165,707 above the national average. However with that price tag residents enjoy very low unemployment and crime rates, 0.07 per capita, along with a thriving community bursting with sports clubs for parents and children alike. There’s the football team the Twyford Comets, tennis courts, bowls greens and one of the oldest badminton clubs in England. Nearby nature reserves provide idyllic lakeside and riverside walks, hikes and cycle routes, making it no surprise that Twyford is our number eight.

9. Colyton, Devon (EX24)

Colyton is a small town on the south coast of Devon with a population of just 3,789. It had the reputation of being the most rebellious town in Devon in the 17th Century due to the number of residents who took part in the Monmouth Rebellion, an attempt to overthrow James II. These days it has a less disruptive reputation with crime rates being amongst the lowest in the top 20 at 0.05 per capita, a quarter of the national average.

With easy access to both the countryside and sea, Colyton has a great number of family friendly attractions for all ages on its doorstep. This includes: the Axe Valley Wildlife Park, Lyme Regis Marine Aquarium, the Seaton Tramway and the Beer Heights Light Railway with its wonderful views over Lyme Bay and round to Portland Bill.

Established in 1546, Colyton Grammar School in Colyford has an enviable record of high ranking results at Key Stage Four level, with an average 99% of pupils achieving grades A*-C in mathematics and English this year. It is a good choice for families looking for high performing secondary schools.

A tram in Colyton.

10. Bingham, Nottinghamshire (NG13)

A shelter in the town centre of Bingham.

The market town of Bingham is located in the Rushcliffe Borough of Nottinghamshire, south of the river Trent. The excellent rail and road links to Nottingham have always made Bingham a desirable commuter town and may be further improved by the proposed tram service.

There is a good mix of independent and national retailers, plus a weekly Thursday market and fortnightly farmers market held in historic Buttercross Market Square. Residents and visitors can enjoy fresh local vegetables, honey, cheese, bread, meat, home-made cakes, specialist teas, coffee, soaps and fresh fish.

Derived from the Roman camp of Margidunum, the town is steeped in history – Fosse Way is the straightest road in Britain, running for 200 miles in a direct course. Bingham’s schools score consistently high at Key Stages Two and Four, with 44% of schools given an ‘Outstanding’ rating by Ofsted. An average salary of £25,028 per annum is higher than the UK average and with a two bedroom property costing only £165,133, it’s not hard to see why Bingham’s our tenth hotspot

11. Sandbach, Cheshire (CW11)

Sandbach is a market town, tucked away on the east side of Cheshire. The name Sandbach comes from the Anglo-Saxon “sand bæce”, which can mean “sand stream” or “sand valley”. Since 1579 when it was granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I, Sandbach has been an active market town. Markets are held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and see stall holders from all walks of life pop up in different venues throughout the town, including The Cobbles - a stunning space at the heart of Sandbach. The different markets offer everything from household goods, electrical items, books, fabrics, clothes, meat, fish and gift items.

Apart from its eclectic markets, the town is perhaps best known for being the home to the 12-time National Brass Band Championship winners, Foden’s Band. The band was invited by MP Fiona Bruce to perform in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament in August of last year. With the average property value sitting a huge £68,325 (44%) under the national average but the average salary only £239 under, residents are quid’s in.

A row of houses in Sandbach.

12. Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, (CW4)

The main street of Holmes Chapel.

Slightly to the west of our number 11 winner and still in Cheshire is Holmes Chapel, a large village that is called home by just over 9,378 residents. Holmes Chapel was also home to One Direction star Harry Styles, who found fame on the ITV show The X Factor in 2010. Sadly One Direction has now split up but their flame is still carried on by their strong fan base ‘The Directioners’.

Holmes Chapel railway station has very convenient services to Manchester and Crewe, making it a great place for commuters that want to work in the city but still enjoy the benefits of village life. With an average price for a two bedroom property nearly £10,000 under the national average, it is easy to see the attraction. It has a large number of societies and clubs that are active in the village including the Victoria Club, the Holmes Chapel Music Society, two private Health Clubs and many others. The village was built up around cross roads and the village chapel, Hulmes Chapel, which is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a Grade I listed building. This formed a square which has now become the focal point of the village, holding many social functions including fairs and a cattle market.

13. Shebbear, Devon (EX21)

Shebbear, a rural village in Devon with a small but thriving community of nearly 5,000 people, is back in the top 20. Shebbear has one of the highest concentrations of Early Years Childcare ranked Outstanding in Britain and the primary school in the centre of the village is a real focal point for the community.

November 5, when the rest of the country is setting off fireworks and bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night, the villagers of Shebbear attack a huge boulder on the village green with crowbars for ‘Turning of the Devil’s Stone’. Supposedly the devil lies underneath the one ton, lump of rock and it carries with it a curse that disaster will fall on the village if it isn’t turned once a year to re-trap him below. Perhaps this commitment to the tradition of warding off evil is why it’s also fortunate to have the lowest crime rate recorded (0.05) for any postcode in the top 20.

A lady selling cheeses in Shebbear.

14. Faringdon, Oxfordshire (SN7)

Faringdon main street.

Faringdon is a market town in the ‘Vale of the White Horse’ in Oxfordshire. The town is nestled around the Parish Church, All Saints which dates from the 12th century.

Along with a leisure centre that offers multiple sport classes and a new improved gym 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 in 2004 and has since held an annual arts festival in early July. As well as brimming with arts and culture, there are many clubs that run throughout the year, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, plus a range of art and music classes. With all these activities for families to occupy themselves, above average salaries and the price of a two bedroom property starting only slightly above the national average at £225,925, this makes Faringdon an attractive location for families.

15. Woodley, Berkshire (RG5)

Located in the same county as our number one and two spots but a little lower down in the rankings is Woodley, a large residential town that is popular with families and commuters alike. A hundred years ago, Woodley was a small rural community with less than 1,000 inhabitants. In 1974 it attainted town status with a population of 29,000. Today, due to boundary changes, it is home to 25,235 people, which takes it to just below the national average population of 25,808.

Woodley holds a plethora of attractions such as the museum of Berkshire Aviation, located at the southern boundary of the former Woodley Aerodrome, and numerous markets that feature exciting delights and delicious nibbles. Famous faces that have enjoyed growing up in Woodley include ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ presenter, Chris Tarrant and the Hoosiers vocalist, Irwin Sparkes. With a higher than average, average salary of £29.042 and a very low crime rate (0.07 crimes per capita), it is easy to see why parents would want to raise their children here.

Woodley town centre.

16. Hitchin Hertfordshire, (SG4)

A lake and stately home in Hitchin.

With its rich history and architecture it is not a surprise that Hitchin has made it to the top 20. Another market town, Hitchin has something for everyone. The town is famous for its traditional open market which is the largest in the Home Counties and has been a feature of the town for over 500 years. Along with its markets, Hitchin is notable for St. Mary’s Church, which sits grandly on the bank of the River Hiz and is a central focus of visitors to the city. The Church provides evidence of how Hitchin prospered from trading wool in the 15th century.

Hitchin was first noted as the central place of the Hicce people in a seventh-century document known as Tribal Hidage, which lists all of the kingdoms in England south of the river Humber. Combining this rich heritage with the fact that the town’s GCSE and Key Stage Four results are both well above the national average and the crime rate is nearly 50% below the national average, it’s easy to see why it would be a lovely place to live.

17. Okehampton, Devon (EX20)

Our number 17 spot sees a new entry from the West Country with Okehampton. This town and civil parish in West Devon is situated at the northern erdge of Dartmoor National Park. Okehampton grew on the medieval wool trade and at one point in time had the third highest number of looms in the country. The earliest written record of the settlement is from 980 AD as “Ocmundtune”, meaning settlement by the Ockment, a river which runs through the town.

Every year the Okehampton & District Agricultural Association holds the Okehampton show, an exhibition that has been running since 1891! The show has something for all the family from a large enticing food hall and crafts, to agricultural machinery and gun dog displays. Although the average salary of £19,094 is slightly below the national average, house prices are too meaning it is a hit with families and commuters alike.

A church in Okehampton.

18. Buckingham, Buckinghamshire (MK18)

A lake and church steeple in Buckingham.

Nestled close to the borders of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire is our number 18, Buckingham. A declared town since the 10th century when it was made the capital of the newly formed shire of Buckingham. That was until Aylesbury took over this role in the early 18th century.

The winding river Great Ouse runs through the centre of the town, providing a stunning spot for family picnics and playing Poohsticks off the Thornborough Bridge. Buckingham is characterised by a fine array of Georgian buildings and the Old Gaol which sits dominantly in the centre of the town. Beneath the gentle exterior of this unspoilt town lies a fascinating history, which helps to explain why the name of Buckingham is famous the world over. With its high ranking of Early Year’s Care above outstanding (29%) and below average absence rates (4.1%), it’s clear that the schools are great too.

19. Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire (CM23)

With the highest population on our list at 40,615, is Bishop’s Stortford, another historic market town, this time in Hertfordshire,. Contrary to population belief, the name Stortford does not derive from the name of the river but instead from a personal name, possibly Steorta, a family or small clan that controlled the crossing and lived in the vicinity of the ford in Saxon times.

Just west of the M11 motorway on the county boundary with Essex, it is the closest sizeable town to London Stansted Airport. The Stansted Express service takes around 25 minutes to reach Tottenham Hale and 40 minutes to reach London Liverpool Street, allowing Bishop's Stortford to be part of the London Commuter Belt. With the average salary of £25,896 taking residents nearly £4,000 over the UK average it’s a sure win with families that want to have the benefits of working in London without having to live there.

A street in Bishop's Stortford.

20. Macclesfield, Cheshire (SK10)

Panorama of Macclesfield.

Number 20 is Macclesfield, a fairly affluent town with 39,804 residents. Situated in the ancient Hundred of Hamestan, the town is recorded in the Domesday Book as "Maclesfeld”. While the average property is nearly £40,000 below the national average, the average salary is only £200 below, allowing money to go a bit further.

Situated one hour 40 minutes from London and less than half an hour from central Manchester and Manchester International Airport, the town offers the best of both worlds for families. A day trip can be taken to a large city or just stay in the town itself with an array of exciting heritage and character spots to create your own adventures and family stories.

At the centre of Macclesfield sits St. Michael and All Angels Church It’s said that if you can walk from the bottom to the top of the 108 steps that attach Water’s Green to the church without taking a breath you will have a wish granted. The cynical, however, might wonder if any such claim was based on a quick stop in the pub where the trek begins.

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Because of 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 a fair 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.