THREE places in Essex were this week named among some of the best places to live. 

In total eight locations in the East of England were chosen by The Sunday Times to represent the best of Britain in the annual Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide. 

The comprehensive guide was released online yesterday and will be available in the paper on Sunday. 

The Sunday Times’s expert judges behind the guide assess a wide range of factors, from schools, air quality, transport and broadband speeds  to culture, green spaces and the health of the high street.  

They look for improving towns, villages or city centres, for attractive, well designed homes and locations bursting with community spirit - which the pandemic has shown to be the most vital quality of all.  

There areas in Essex made the list - Dedham Vale, Saffron Walden and Epping. 

This is what the judges had to say about them. 

Dedham Vale

Dedham Vale was described by judges as “immaculate” and “timeless”.

Villages such as Stoke by Nayland, Nayland and Dedham were praised for their extensive network of footpaths and cycling routes, plus golf, fishing and watersports.


The area's  fine-dining spots and gastropubs, including the Angel Inn and the Crown, the Swan Inn in Stratford St Mary, the Sun Inn, Milsoms, Le Talbooth, and the Old Bakery Café were also noted.

The area was also praised for its good local shops. 

Judges said: “The immaculate, timeless villages of Constable Country are an ideal base for young families looking for country living within reach of work in Ipswich, Colchester or the City of London.” 

Average house price: £335,000 

Average rental: £800 pcm 

Saffron Walden 

The town made the list for its award-winning market, gorgeous historic houses, wealth of clubs and societies and excellent schools: Saffron Walden County High and Farlingaye High are both rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

There’s culture aplenty. The Fry art gallery (soon to be extended) features standout Essex artists such as Michael Ayrton, John Aldridge and Grayson Perry.

Saffron Screen, a not for profit community cinema, has offered online screenings through lockdowns, and state-of-the-art concert venue Saffron Hall has enlisted world-class artists to curate a set of free musical resources for primary schools 

Average house price: £450,000 

Average rental: £850 pcm 


In Epping he forest was praised as one of the country’s greatest open spaces.

Judges said: “There has been no more magical place within sight of London to take your daily exercise than the ancient forest.

Gazette: Epping. Picture: Lewis Berrill Epping. Picture: Lewis Berrill

"There’s also the convenience of the Tube and a hard-working community, where groups such as Epping in Bloom do everything they can to keep their town looking beautiful.”  

Average house price: £525,000 

Average rental: £1,250 pcm 

Woodbridge in Suffolk was named as the winner in the east. 

Helen Davies, The Times and Sunday Times Property Editor said: “This guide has never been so important. The pandemic has taught us just how much we rely on our homes, our communities and our surroundings. With working from home now common, it’s no surprise that many of us are reassessing our priorities and thinking hard about where we really want to live.  

“Our focus for this year has been community, countryside and convenience. It hasn’t been a year for big cities or small villages. Instead it is small towns that have shone: big enough to have everything you need within walking distance and small enough for everyone to feel connected.  

“Woodbridge is our winner in this region because it is arty, creative and historic. Its thriving, independent high street is full of the good things of life and the schools are excellent.  

“During the pandemic, it has been the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors, whether it’s sailing or wild-swimming in the River Deben or walking up Kyson Hill or in Rendlesham Forest.”