Hart cannot possibly be the best place to the best place to live in the UK. Yes, its residents are the nation’s healthiest and live the longest. And yes I’ll accept that they live in wonderful rural homes and typically earn a third more than the national average, but they are bored. They must be. I mean, they live in an area devoid of diversity, difference and frankly anything resembling a quality restaurant to spend their money on.
You see I grew up a stone’s throw away in the neighbouring borough of Bracknell Forest. I’d like to say it was a destitute and unhappy area, but in reality it’s just as affluent. The world of Hart (where all my childhood friends lived) was just a stone’s throw away (200 metres) past Hart landmarks including the a sewage treatment plant, a stinking mushroom farm and the mighty Backwater River (more a stream).
You could say it was my teenage stomping ground, except there wasn’t much stomping. Once the nice walks at Bramshill plantation and the antique shops of Hartley Witney are ticked off the Hart to-do-list (not teenage priorities) there is little else in the area to keep your attention.
Today I go back for the weekend now and then for a walk and wish I’d driven further towards some real countryside, not the faux-rural commuter belt. Of course parts of it are pretty, but it’s not like Cumbria or rural Wales – the noise and pollution of the M3 motorway is never far away and I just fail to see what’s so great about this particular slice of pricey commuter belt.
The most recent reports point to good exam results, high-quality childcare and low crime. But here’s a word of warning from a near native – yes, your children will be safe and well-educated, but you'll be achingly bored.
And, if your kids are anything like I was then, they'll be soon hanging around the train station, drinking illicitly purchased lager and dreaming of taking the next train to the dazzlingly, but equally disappointing, bright lights of Basingstoke.