“…there’s a high rate of employment among the 274,000-strong population, an above-average life expectancy, and the ancient market towns and charming villages are known for their friendly residents…”
Moving to Central Bedfordshire
While at first glance this sparsely-populated, green pocket of land nestled between Bedford and Luton may seem unassuming, take the time to look again – Central Bedfordshire, with its pretty villages, country towns and high quality of living was voted third best place to live in the UK for families in 2016.
Once you begin to explore Central Bedfordshire, the reasons for these accolades become obvious. An impressively ancient area (Palaeolithic remains have been found here), there’s a high rate of employment among the 274,000-strong population, an above-average life expectancy, and the ancient market towns and charming villages are known for their friendly residents, picturesque surroundings and thriving local businesses. One of the least-densely occupied areas in England, major centres here include the popular town of Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis, while many choose to make the most of the vast countryside by settling in smaller, well-connected spots.
However, shopping and dining opportunities are relatively limited throughout, with many residents choosing to travel to nearby cities such as Milton Keynes for a better range. Central Bedfordshire also lacks diversity, with little immigration to the area and a predominantly white, Christian population. Flight noise can be an issue for those living close to Luton Airport, and the rising house prices are making this area increasingly out of budget for many potential residents.
House prices in Central Bedfordshire
House prices vary throughout Central Bedfordshire, with Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard averaging around £280,000 as of 2017, while Houghton Regis and Dunstable are considerably more affordable at £215,000 and £240,000 respectively. The area has risen in price by a staggering 25% since 2014, as London commuters become more aware of the pretty villages and good transport links offered by the area.
“One of the least-densely occupied areas in England, major centres here include the popular town of Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis, while many choose to make the most of the vast countryside by settling in smaller, well-connected spots”
As well as buses transporting residents to centres throughout the borough, there are a number of train stations situated on major lines, making the area popular with London commuters seeking country life with easy access to the capital. Commuting times vary depending on the station, with most between thirty minutes and an hour to London St Pancras. For international travel, Luton Airports sits just next to the southern tip of Central Bedfordshire, while drivers benefit from the M1, A1, A5 and A6 all passing through the area.
Aside from a good array of small businesses in towns such as Dunstable, Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard, most residents of Central Bedfordshire head to one of the area’s shopping complexes when seeking a retail fix. Leading centres in the area include the Quadrant Shopping Centre in Dunstable, home to Dorothy Perkins, Clarks and MAC, Eleanor’s Cross Shopping Precinct, where you’ll find local boutiques such as Hetty Spaghetty and Gladrags among others, and the Dickensian-style Olde Watermill Shopping Village in Barton-le-Clay, a converted watermill with cobbled streets of antiques shops, independent craft shops and a popular tea room.
Dining in Central Bedfordshire is relatively limited, although there are a myriad of good gastropubs to be found in local villages, such as The Flying Horse in Clophill, The White Hart in Greenfield and The Black horse in Shefford. Some top-quality dining spots can also be found in Leighton Buzzard, including traditional Italian cuisine from Mama Rosa, authentic Thai food at The Peacock, and chain restaurants such as Pizza Express.
Branches of all major supermarkets can be found in the market towns of Central Bedfordshire, including Asda and Sainsbury’s in Biggleswade, Morrisons and Tesco in Shefford and Waitrose in Amptill. For fans of international cooking, the Central Oriental Supermarket offers a myriad of Asian produce and products, whilst there’s aways something fresh to be found at the Woburn Farmers Market.
Health & Sport
There’s a good mix of sport and exercise facilities throughout the area, ranging from golf clubs such as Beadlow Manor Golf Club to Dunstable Leisure Centre, a council run service boasting a swimming pool, bowling alley, fitness studio and more. For fans of water-based activity Biggleswade Saxon Pool is home to the Biggleswade Swimming Club, while for something altogether more aeronautic the London Gliding Club is based at Dunstable Down.
For such a rural area, Central Bedfordshire offers a surprising array of cultural activities, with everything from exotic animals to thought-provoking plays. There are a selection of good theatres in the area, including the Grove Theatre and Little Theatre in Dunstable and the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, while those with a fondness for history and architecture will enjoy a trip to the Priory Church or the remains of the castle at Totternhoe Knolls. Meanwhile, if it’s lions, tigers and bears that you’re after then ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is the UK’s largest with nearly 4,000 animals, and the renowned Shuttleworth Collection has enough vintage airplanes to keep even the most dedicated aviators happy.
“For such a rural area, Central Bedfordshire offers a surprising area of cultural activities, with everything from exotic animals to thought-provoking plays.”
Schools and Education
Unusually, Bedfordshire is one of the last areas in England to still operate on a three tier school system, with education establishments divided into lower schools (ages 5-9), middle schools (age 9-13) and upper schools (ages 13-18) rather than primary and secondary. An impressive 86% of schools in Central Bedfordshire are classed as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, with leading lower schools including Stondon Lower School, Priory Lower School, and Dunton CofE VC Lower School, while for middle school-aged children Priory Middle School, Alameda Middle School, and Burgoyne Middle School are among the best in the area. For older children, Redbourne Upper School, Harlington Upper School, and Cedars Upper School all come highly recommended.
Quiet and peaceful, Central Bedfordshire sees a relatively low crime rate of 50 crimes per 1000 residents, with most incidents occurring in more built-up areas.
Situated on the edge of the Chiltern Hills and lacking in major urban centres, Central Bedford boasts plenty of countryside and green spaces for its fortunate residents to enjoy, including nine Green Flag Award-winning parks. Barton Hills National Nature Reserve, Dunstable Downs and Stockgrove County Park are all top choices for those looking to stretch their legs in open space, while for something a little wilder there’s always the Woburn Safari Park.