Is your neighbourhood one of the best in Britain?
A new survey of the UK's loveliest places to live sees Berkhamsted and Bedford amongst the top spots. Hooray! What a good excuse for us to go snooping around and find out what all the fuss is about...
Last weekend The Sunday Times published its annual Best Places To Live list, and Herts & Beds came up trumps (not that we’re surprised – we already know it’s great living here, right?!) with Berkhamsted and Bedford making the cut. Amongst the 101 lovely locales, Berko came in second in the Southeast category and Bedford clinched third place in the East.
Local knowledge and seeking out the fun stuff is Muddy’s speciality obvs, so here’s our take on these top towns, in case you fancy a nosey this weekend. And if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the hotspots, let us know if you’ve been overrun by excitable Sunday Times readers!
The ‘land of milk and honey’ for families or career couples making the leap out of London, Berko feels as chi-chi as it gets outside of the M25, plus it’s only 30 mins into Euston by train.
The high street is dotted with stylish boutiques, like Amelie, selling proper London-y brands, and for those who, like me, can’t resist a rummage around an antiques shop, Home & Colonial is packed to the rafters with unique and restored finds for your home. And if you find yourself losing an hour or so in the latter, just pop upstairs to cool coffee shop, Black Goo, for a latte and a slab of highly calorific cake (you deserve it!).
Walk it off at a leisurely pace along the canal, where you can spot some local birdlife and the pretty painted barges. And, bet you didn’t know that Berko even has its own castle?! Well, kind of, they’re ruins, but it makes a nice little picnic spot on a sunny day.
If you can escape for a bit of me-time, check into new do-me-up duo, Cecily Day Spa, a luxe five-room day spa, and Alchemy and I, a blowdry bar where you can knock back a cocktail while you’re getting a balayage done (they’re experts at that!) – no more schlepping into the city for your fancy hairdo then!
The newest addition to Berko high street that’s got the locals’ tongues wagging is the gorgeously chic Copper House. This social bar and restaurant has brought a late licence to Berko, so you can party (or lounge) the night away, in sophisticated style, sipping cocktails, then soothe the hangover the next day with some hair of the dog over a boozy brunch. Yum! Or for a chilled night out catch some art house cinema (or a movie that you missed first time round) at The Rex – a fab Art Deco cinema and bar venue, where you can enjoy the film over a glass of wine in a comfy chair.
Finally, Bedford has gained ‘up and coming’ status (we knew it was only a matter of time!) While it might not quite have that Home Counties gloss, it’s got plenty going for it, thank you very much – a riverside location, speedy train links into London (just 37 mins if you get the fast train) and fab outside spaces for starters – you mark our words, it’s on the up!
Wander along the embankment and you’ll find the Castle Mound (yep, another one!) and the formal gardens. Plus there’s the Grade II-listed Bedford Park where you’ll find sports pitches, play areas and an outdoor gym (in case you’re feeling active on your afternoon amble). Do pop into the Pavilion – a cute and buzzy café and lunch spot which also hosts an array of cool events, from theatrical productions to supper clubs and monthly art exhibitions. And if you’re into walks and wildlife, check out Priory Country Park – 300 acres of grasslands and gravel pit lakes to explore. Or for a proper day out, Woburn Abbey is less than a 30-minute drive away.
As for shopping, Bedford may not be your go-to for fashion boutiques, but do pay a visit to Made in Bedford – a shop and café which supports local artists and runs crafty workshops, as well as épanoui, a gorgeous jewellery and artisan gift shop.
Food-wise, there’s a scattering of cheap and cheerful family-run pizza and pasta joints around town, thanks to Bedford’s thriving Italian community. But if you’re after somewhere that does a slap-up roast and a decent pint, all served up with a dose of quirky style, check out D’Parys. They have some rather fab looking rooms too if you want to make a night of it.