Do you live in the best place in Britain?
A new survey of the UK's loveliest locales sees Surrey trending. But you knew that already right? So does your neighbourhood make the list?
The Sunday Times has just published its annual Best Places To Live list and not one, not two, but six Surrey spots made the top 10 of the South-east category. Well, tell us something we don’t know, right?!
Britain is blessed with a wealth of cool cities, thriving market towns, lively villages and charming suburbs. And in Surrey we have the easy commute into London, outstanding schools, a burgeoning foodie scene, vineyards aplenty and gorgeous countryside.
Local knowledge and seeking out the fun stuff is Muddy’s speciality obvs, so here’s our take on those six hotspots, with some suggestions in case you want to go have a nosey this long weekend.
The pretty market town of Reigate has long been popular with Londoners looking for a slice of Surrey life, and it’s no great surprise. Still commutable to the Big Smoke, but with the Surrey Hills literally right on your doorstep, there’s a lot to recommend it, not least the excellent range of boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
The High Street is well-stocked – with both high end chains and independents. Quattro Rish has long been a favourite for fashionistas, alongside Gerrards which sells a lovely range of both women’s and men’s wear. You won’t struggle for hair and beauty salons, but we’re big fans of Luminis Beauty Spa and Charlie Brown Hair, both on Church Street. You could also head to the award-winning Beautique Medispa, at the western end of town, or the Nail and Body Boutique in the Lesbourne Road shopping village.
The foodie scene is pretty good too, with one of the best French restaurants in the county La Barbe, just across from Priory Park in Church Street, and is something of a Reigate institution. It’s been there for over 35 years, which says it all really. For brilliant pub food, head to The Black Horse, at the other end of town. There’s also a great choice of cafes and tea shops including Cullenders Deli, Monty Bojangles, and Muddy Award winners Beryl and Pegs.
It’s impossible to talk about the merits of Reigate without mentioning Priory Park – a vibrant parkland in the centre of town with an impressive playground, picnic area, skate park and tennis courts, as well as formal gardens, playing fields and a lake. It’s a hub for plenty of community events throughout the year including a food and drink festival; Run Reigate, a 5, 10k and half-marathon running event that attracts plenty of entries each year; and pop-up alfresco films during the summer months. Reigate Hill, just outside the town, offers great walking and great views.
Still clinging tightly to its self-proclaimed title as the biggest village in England, Cranleigh manages to pack a fair bit in – with a busy high street bursting with lovely independent shops, cafes and restaurants. The Richard Onslow, a Muddy Award winning pub, sits proudly in the middle of town offering up great food as well as boutique bedrooms. And for shopping there’s the family owned lifestyle store One 40, with fashion, homewear, gifts and a cafe, as well as department store Mann’s of Cranleigh. And for beauty, Idyllic Day Spa on the High Street, is known for being one of the best beauty salons in the region.
There’s also a burgeoning art scene, with Belgravia Art Gallery having recently relocated to the area from central London, and the Cranleigh Art Centre in the middle of town showing films, theatre, comedy and art. Just outside the town, at Smithbrook Kilns, you’ll find a range of independent shops and workshops including jewellers Simon Pure who specialises in beautiful handmade jewellery, and Jon Dibben who creates stunning jewellery using Fairtrade gold and silver. Both are Muddy Awards winners.
The excellent Cranleigh School is a top day and boarding school set on an impressive 280 acre site on the edge of the village, with the Cranleigh Prep just across the road.
Just a few miles south of Guildford, Bramley is a small village with a big community spirit. Despite sharing a name with one of England’s most famous apples, it actually has no connection with the firm-fleshed green fruit, which was first grown in Nottinghamshire. Bramley is, however, where the first ever all-women’s cricket match was played – way, way back in 1745 on Gosden Common where Bramley Cricket Club play today. As well as an active cricket club, this small village is also home to a golf course.
The high street has a cluster of independent shops, including an antique shop and a classic car showroom – which recently sold one of Prince Philip’s former Range Rovers complete with a retracting step to make it easier for Queen Liz to climb in and out. It may not be in everyone’s used car price bracket – bit it’s one for the aspirational among us.
Food wise, there are also a couple of pubs – the family-owned Jolly Farmer and the Wheatsheaf – as well as the Nest Coffee Shop. Oh, and wine lovers will love Muddy award-winners Taurus Wines, who are at Whipley Manor Farm, offering a brilliant range of wines and spirits from all over the world as well as regular tasting sessions. And if you’re after furniture, Neal’s Store and Workshop does amazing restoration work on old furniture and has soft furnishings from around the world too.
About seven miles south of Guildford and just a couple of miles from Bramley is the cute village of Shamley Green, perched, as the name suggests, on a pretty triangular green. The Shamley Green Country Stores – the local village store – has recently had been extended and is the hub of this little village. But there’s also the Speckledy Hen Cafe here – in the Old Forge – a haven for cake lovers.
Shamley Green was home to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s – indeed the film director named his production company Shamley Productions after the village – and this little village in the Surrey Hills is no stranger to celeb life. Sir Richard Branson grew up here, the late comedian Sir Harry Secombe lived here, and Phil Collins also once called it home.
There are two pubs in the village – the traditional Red Lion, which overlooks the green, and the Brickies (aka the Bricklayer’s Arms), just up the road. And like every English village worth its salt, there’s a cricket club – in fact, it’s one of the oldest in the country. There’s also a wonderful little school, Longacre School, which is you’ll find on the outskirts of the village down some of the prettiest Surrey lanes there are.
Never far from a ‘best place to live’ list, Cobham is well known for being a great place to live with a great collection of independent shops on the high street as well as cafes, restaurants and pubs. We’ve had a lot to say about Cobham recently – and for a full-length feature it’s all here.
There’s a wonderfully rural air about Cobham, while still being fairly close to London, so you get the best of both worlds really. There are excellent schools nearby (including ACS International School Cobham, Parkside, Feltonfleet Prep and Notre Dame among others) plenty of parkland – hello Painshill – and some stonkingly gorgeous houses.
There’s no shortage of places to eat in Cobham, with a good mix of quality chain and independent restaurants and cafes including The Ivy Brasserie. We’re quite partial to The Cricketers, a gorgeous 17th-century inn just out of Cobham on Downside Common, or for a town centre pub, head to The Bear which has just re-opened where Wildwood once was. For lighter bites, Brontes or The Juice Smith are popular choices, both in the centre of town, or the fairly new Mama’s Kitchen Cafe in the hothouse at The Medicine Garden.
And then you can work it off at one of the many boutique fitness studios in town including Ride! spin studio or Core pilates studio, both on the High Street, The Konasana Dome at the Medicine Garden for yoga, pilates and meditation, or for personal training and small classes, get in touch with fitness trainer Keeley Howard.
There are some lovely shops worth a browse in the town centre – we’re loving Pip and Gray, for gifts and women’s fashion (and while you’re there pop into the adjoining Curtain Call). Number Six, is a super stylish women’s boutique.
Not technically Surrey, but close enough – so we’re claiming this one! Teddington is the perfect spot for central Londoners looking to leave behind the bright lights of the big city, but who aren’t yet ready to make the leap into full-on rurality. Its location right on the Thames, with the vast acreage of Bushy Park nearby, an easy commute into London, plus a wonderfully villagey feel, make this place a true gem. No wonder it has a firm place on these ‘best places to live’ lists.
There’s a good choice of local restaurants and pubs – we’re partial to the cool and quirky gin bar and restaurant, One One Four – a real gem – and The King’s Head, a great pub that’s just across the road. Locals also love Moidul’s of Teddington for a great curry and the Fallow Deer for great brunch.
The High Street is a wonderful mix of small independent businesses, which includes the Refill Larder, a plastic-free grocery store, and Heirloom, a lovely gift and homeware store. There are also florists, butchers and bakers.
Some of Britain’s most iconic Seventies and Eighties TV shows were filmed here – at Teddington Film Studios – which has been since redeveloped into housing. And as you’d expect, house prices in this part of the world are fairly steep – some of the highest outside central London.