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Reasons to move to Wales? Well there's the healthcare, the house prices, the ...

Tom Peck weighs up the advantages of life on the other side of Offa's Dyke

Tom Peck
Sunday 24 February 2013 22:29 GMT

Possible tax advantages aside, just how alluring is life beyond the Severn Bridge?

The healthcare is better, for a start. The NHS in Wales spends more per person than in England, just over £2,000 compared with £1,900. Prescriptions are free, too, while in England there is a £7.65 charge. This, and free hospital parking, persuaded the picturesque village of Audlem, nine miles from the Welsh border, to hold an online referendum on whether to secede from England and join Wales. Sixty per cent of residents voted yes. But the picture is a little more complicated. That extra NHS spending is forecast to finish by 2014. Wales also has fewer GPs, slightly shorter life expectancies, and patients visit hospital more often and stay longer.

Another factor in Wales's favour: cheaper housing. House prices have fallen by £2,000 in the past year, to a national average of £153,299. The average for the UK as a whole is £238,293.

The country is also peppered with areas of outstanding beauty. In January Swansea's Rhossili Bay was voted the third-best beach in Europe on the travel website Tripadvisor, beating competition from Greece and Sardinia. The three-mile stretch of white sand on the Gower Peninsula was the UK's top-rated destination.

The 870-mile-long All Wales Coast Path, a government scheme costing £10m, was opened last year, running from Chepstow in the south right the way around to Queensferry in Flintshire. Its completion means Wales is the only country in the world with a footpath covering its entire coastline. Lonely Planet called the Welsh coastline "the greatest region on Earth to visit" last year, ahead of some of the world's most famous destinations.

"What a wonderful thing: to walk the entire length of a country's coastline, to trace its every nook, cranny, cliff-face, indent and estuary," the Lonely Planet writer Sarah Baxter said. "How better to truly appreciate the shape – and soul – of a nation?"

In Llandudno the footpath passes the Lauriston Court Hotel, where a room costs only £35 a night and which topped a recent poll to find the best hotel service in the world. Its proprietors, Carol-Lynn and Ian Robbins, are rather better versed in good manners than the television presenter Anne Robinson, who was forced to make a public apology to the entire Welsh nation after branding its inhabitants "irritating and annoying".

"What are they for?" she asked Paul Merton, when she appeared on the television show Room 101. "They are always so pleased with themselves."

In 1998 the Sunday Times television critic called the Welsh "loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls". But then he has been just as unkind about England's "lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd".

There are some more official warning signs that the grass is not always greener in the valleys. The Office for National Statistics' annual wellbeing report found more unhappiness in Wales than anywhere else in the UK. More than a quarter – 25.3 per cent – of Welsh people gave a low rating for "life satisfaction", compared with 24.3 per cent in England, 22.6 per cent Scotland and 21.6 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Coast to coast: How England and Wales compare

Beaches Rhossili Bay near Swansea was named Europe’s third best beach by TripAdvisor last week. The 3-mile stretch of white sand, located within an area that was designated as the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, finished above Woolacombe in Devon, which was voted fifth.

Wales Free
England £7.65

Healthcare spending
Wales £2,017 per person, per year
England £1,900

Wales 25.3% of people had low life satisfaction
England 24.3%

Life expectancy
Wales 77.6 years.
England 78.6 years

House prices
Wales £153,299.
UK average £238,293

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