Wish you were there

PUBLISHED: 16:06 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013

Long Melford is officially one of the most desirable places to live in the UK. Nancy Richardson explains why, for Essex residents, it is also a popular place to visit

TALK to a Melfordian and you will find they are incredibly friendly and far from surprised that their village of Long Melford has recently won the illustrious accolade of being the seventh most desirable village in Britain.

The accolade is a result of a recent customer survey conducted by estate agent Savills, which considered the features people prize most in a village when deciding which location was most desirable.

Tom Orford, associate director of Savills Suffolk, said: 'I think Long Melford is in the top 20 for a number of reasons. There is a great mix of shops and beautiful architecture, which keeps prices high. It is also quite well planned with easy access to Colchester and Bury St Edmunds, and surrounded by the lovely country estate of Melford Hall.'

This thriving and historic Suffolk village, located near Sudbury, is full of locals who are convinced that this recognition is thoroughly justified. Robin Brown has lived in Long Melford for the past 56 years and was delighted with the announcement. 'To be honest, I wouldn't live anywhere else thanks to the fun, friendly atmosphere,' says Robin.

Freda Hurrell, who was born and raised in Long Melford agrees. 'News goes round like wildfire here, as it does in any small community, but I really appreciate how friendly and supportive the villagers are,' she adds.

Even newcomers feel the same. 'It's so picturesque and people have time to welcome strangers, even my 70-year-old mother commented on that when she came to visit,' says Mark Grundy, 36, manager of the Cock & Bell Inn, who moved to the village 18 months ago from Blackpool.

So what gives Long Melford this overwhelming appeal? Occupied since at least 100BC, Long Melford was recorded in the Domesday Book and the village layout was defined in Roman times when the empire built two roads through Melford, the main one running from Chelmsford through to Pakenham. Its name is derived from the nature of this long, three-mile stretch of single road, called Hall Street, and the Mill Ford crossing the Chad Brook, a tributary of the River Stour.

Long Melford is now home to a population of about 4,500. It is still famous for being often featured in the BBC TV series Lovejoy during the 1980s, attracting visitors and holidaymakers from all over the world, but today the antique dealers are part of a much more diverse range of shops.

In the heart of the valley of the Stour River, the scenery around the village certainly is stunning and 200 years ago, John Constable thought so too, using scenes from the river in many of his famous paintings.

Melford is also home to not just one, but two stately homes. The first, Kentwell, is a romantic, moated Tudor mansion set in tranquil parkland. Beautiful gardens and historic farm buildings, complete with an array of rare breeds of animals are open to the public regularly. An open-air theatre at Kentwell is the setting for plays and concerts during the summer and it also holds regular re-creations of life in Tudor times, when the hall is inhabited by up to 250 men, women and children who live, act and dress as authentically as possible.

The second Elizabethan stately home, Melford Hall, played host to Elizabeth I when she was entertained lavishly here, along with 2,000 members of her court. It now belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public during the summer. Melford Hall Park also forms the setting for the extremely popular, Big Night Out bonfire and fireworks event in November, which attracts hordes of visitors from the surrounding towns and villages.

Community spirit
Holy Trinity Church completes the landscape at the north of the village overlooking the green and is a parish church of dimensions more suited to a cathedral. Edmund Blunden, the World War I poet, is buried in the churchyard.

Nick Barnes, 34, moved to the village two years ago. He owns and manages The Crown Hotel, a free house built in 1610 in the heart of the village and recently married Angela, 35, a journalist.

Nick explains: 'We originally moved here for business purposes, but we have thoroughly enjoyed living here, as you need only walk along the high street to be greeted by fellow villagers every day and there is a real sense of community spirit.

'The Riot Act, of 1714 was originally read on the steps of The Crown, which was introduced by the Parliament of Great Britain authorising local authorities to declare any group of more than 12 people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. It makes me smile now, as I enjoy meeting the many Melfordians and visitors who come here to relax at the bar and put the world to rights still.'

Angela agrees: 'The village is a great place to live if you want to escape city living but still enjoy a cosmopolitan lifestyle. There is a relaxed café culture, easy access to fabulous shops, a mix of interesting, welcoming people from a whole host of different backgrounds and experiences and the countryside is right on your doorstep. Our friends from London and abroad are always keen to come and visit.'

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