Sleepy Suffolk is simply the best place to live

For everything from sunshine to traffic levels, Mid Suffolk is top of the British table for quality of country life

To its detractors, Mid Suffolk is an area of gently undulating sugar beet fields whose best feature is the A14 dual carriageway that thunders through its heart en route to the questionable glories of Ipswich. But while many have spurned the delights of the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel's adoptive home, it seems its 86,000 canny residents have been quietly enjoying the best quality of life that rural Britain has to offer.

A statistical cocktail of good health, higher than average sunshine, a low burglary rate and cheap property means that people living in this hitherto hidden jewel of East Anglia, whose little-known gifts to humanity include the discovery of soda water and the beginnings of Frankenstein, are benefiting from the highest standard of living in Britain's 114 rural local authorities.

While the district stretching from the medieval marshlands of Eye to the arable plains of Stowmarket is not immune from problems that blight countryside communities such as dwindling amenities and public transport links, it has profited from a "ripple effect" of prosperity and economic activity in places such Cambridge and Felixstowe as well as maintaining its traditional structure of picturebook villages.

It is not by chance that Britain's 40th largest council district is the setting for Akenfield, the social history of a Suffolk village written in 1967 by Ronald Blythe, which is considered a modern classic for its chronicling of a long-lost vision of rural England through the lives of the village teacher, doctor, blacksmith, saddler and magistrate.

A survey, conducted on behalf of Halifax, found that their modern successors have continued to reap the rewards of an area where 70 per cent of the population still live in villages or a rural setting with one of the lowest crime rates in the country as well as property prices considerably below those of surrounding areas. Researchers drew on statistics ranging from the census to exam results as well as rainfall data from the Met Office to create an index of rural living standards.

Martin Ellis, economist at the bank, now part of the Lloyds TSB group which is 65 per cent-owned by the tax payer, said: "Residents of Mid Suffolk have the best quality of life of any rural area in Great Britain. They tend to be healthy, with one of the longest life expectancy rates, and live in larger than average houses. Significantly, average house prices in Mid Suffolk trade at an average £9,810 below the regional average. Therefore, an excellent quality of life comes at a relatively reasonable price."

The findings, which also showed that the area enjoys two more hours of sunshine each week than the national average, reflected the high standing of the East of England in the quality of life rankings. All but three of the top 10 rankings were taken by districts in East Anglia.

According to the study, nowhere quite has the strength in depth of Mid Suffolk, whose status as a haven from the frenzy of modern life was recognised by John Peel when he bought his home in Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, in the 1970s. He often presented shows from a studio in the grounds of his home, which he referred to as "Peel Acres".

Tim Passmore, the leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: "I think Mid Suffolk is tremendous. It has attractive market towns, beautiful villages and a laid-back lifestyle that the rest of the country can only dream of."

The area was home to a long list of forgotten heroes, including Joseph Priestly, the 18th-century theologian and amateur chemist from Needham Market who was the first man to isolate oxygen and invent soda water, and William Godwin, a philosopher from Stowmarket who married the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797 and whose daughter was the Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley.

There are early signs that others are catching on to the idea that Mid Suffolk is an attractive place to live. The population is predicted to grow to about 99,000 by 2021, representing a net influx of people to the area which Ronald Blythe described as being populated with "old farmsteads, snowcemmed [sic] and trim ... with its carrs [sic] and its mosses where a millennium of villagers have preferred not to live".

All, however, is not sweetness and light in this rural paradise. Improbably, it has been selected as the site of Europe's largest indoor winter sports arena, Snoasis, which was passed by the Government last year for construction in a former cement quarry at a cost of £350m complete with an artificial ski slope in a giant snow dome.

Peter Welham, co-ordinator of the Snoasis Community Alliance, which is campaigning against the scheme in the village of Great Blakenham, said: "It is all very well Mid Suffolk being hailed as an area of rural tranquility but that does not sit well when we have a monster-sized scheme like this."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links