Hampshire Most Desirable To Live In UK
The Hampshire district of Hart has been named as the UK's most desirable location to live in a study measuring quality of life.
With its rolling countryside and chocolate box villages, Hart district in north-east Hampshire is a haven for peace and quiet described as ''like stepping back in time''.
Named after the River Hart which trickles through it, the district - population around 91,000 - is based around the town of Fleet and incorporates the smaller towns of Yateley and Hook, as well as unspoilt villages.
With two military bases - RAF Odiham and the Royal School of Military Engineering - within its boundaries it has a relatively large population of current and ex-service personnel.
According to locals, what makes it attractive are its 84 square miles of green wooded landscape and excellent road and rail links to London and the South Coast.
Mavis Gray, 70, who has lived in Hart district for 27 years, said:
''The people are friendly, we have some lovely villages to take walks through and you have a sense that you are not closed in.
''We are quite near the M3 and we have got good rail links which means we can travel into London Waterloo in just under an hour.
''Fleet and the surrounding area hasn't got much in the way of industry, and employment locally is mainly based in offices and shops.
''Socially, there are lots of societies to join and we have a local community hall which hosts lots of things. We recently had the Ghurka band concert because they used to be based round here.''
Councillor Ken Crookes, leader at Conservative-led Hart District Council, said:
''Hart is a very attractive, mostly rural area with some very pleasant towns.
''Its people are very well educated by comparison to the national average, they care about their health, they care about their education and enjoy pretty good levels of employment.''
Hart district contrasts with the modern growth of its neighbours Aldershot and Farnborough to the east and Basingstoke to the west.
Levels of crime in Hart are the lowest in Hampshire, according to the local force, with burglaries and vehicle crime falling by up to 30% since around 2008.
Attractions include Fleet Pond, which at 52 acres is Hampshire's largest freshwater lake. Its reedbeds, marshes, heathland and woodland provide a sanctuary to more than 2,000 species of animal and rare plant life.
Other highlights include the Basingstoke Canal, which runs for 10 miles through the district, and on the border, the Wellington Country Park and Stratfield Saye House - country seat of the Duke of Wellington.
Within Hart district is the beautiful village of Hartley Wintney, which has one of the oldest cricket greens in the country. Its cricket club was founded as Hartley Row in 1770, long before clubs set up in London.
Chris Kemp, 38, the manager of the Cricketers pub in the village, said:
''It's very friendly, very villagey, the people are lovely and everyone knows everyone.
''I spent 10 years in London before coming here and, to be honest, I would quite like to go back to the city because it's like stepping back in time here.
''I like to be able to order a takeaway when I want or just stick my arm out to hail a taxi, whereas it's not quite possible to do that round here.
''I can well understand why people like it in the village, though, because it is lovely.''