Wadhurst in East Sussex has beaten 71 other locations to be named the UK’s best place to live.
Judges for the Sunday Times said the small market town offers “pretty much everything needed for modern life in miniature”.
It was praised for its good schools, convenient transport links, variety of high street shops and being surrounded by “stunning scenery”.
The Wadhurst Warriors, a group of fathers who began fundraising for the town’s primary school in 2004 and now raise money for the whole village, were praised as the “stars of the show”.
Judges also praised the town of less than 5,000 people – the smallest winner of the award in its 11-year history – for the many activities available for children, the farmers’ market, clubs, classes and the community cinema at the Community Hall.
Wadhurst Warriors chairman Chris Poulton told PA news agency the group organises events such as fetes, fireworks nights and putting up Christmas decorations- and the money raised is used to help those in the village who need it, such as the Girl Guides and local school.
He said: “We do believe Wadhurst is the best place to live and that is down to us all working together to make it a place where everyone can be supported.
“We don’t do it for ourselves, we do it for the community.
“Being recognised is great but the more we can give back to the community the better.
“Recognition can just be someone coming up to us and saying thank you.”
A parish council spokesperson told PA news agency: “This is really exciting news. Wadhurst is a lovely, lovely place to live with a great community feel.
“What makes it really special is the community, We have lots of different village clubs and a really active community.
“We are all helping each other out and during Covid that really came to the forefront, with lots of groups helping to get food and medicine to people.
“I would say to someone thinking of moving here that it’s a great place to live, you have the best of both worlds.
“You have easy access to towns and cities but if you want a rural lifestyle it is perfect.”
Paula Lee, 58, who owns the @ONE homeware shop on the high street, told the PA news agency: “I would agree completely – it is a lovely place to live and it has got a good sense of community.
“I am not surprised – I think you would be hard-pushed, certainly in the South East, to find somewhere better.
“There are some really lovely shops, it is a well-rounded high street – there is a nice independent butcher, grocers and a nice community spirit.
“The countryside in this area is just outstanding. There is lots of walking and lots of sporting activities in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”
Sam, 50, who runs Wadhurst Flowers but did not want to give her surname, said: “It is a lovely place to live. It still maintains a village feel, even though we are only five miles from Tunbridge Wells.
“The residents use their high street, which is fantastic.
Ruthin in Denbighshire was identified as the best place to live in Wales, Dunkeld in Perthshire was named as the best place to live in Scotland, and Donaghadee in Co Down was placed top in Northern Ireland.
A winner was also selected for each region in England.
The Sunday Times Best Places To Live guide is released online on Friday and an edited version will be available in the paper on Sunday.
They include Poundbury, a village on the edge of Dorchester in Dorset which was planned by King Charles and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
At the time critics branded it a “toy town” but judges said its affordable homes, renewable energy and emphasis on walkability suggest it was ahead of its time.
Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield have all made a return – suggesting people may no longer be dashing to the country as cities return to life following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
Expert judges visited all the locations and assessed factors ranging from the quality of schools and transport links to broadband speeds, culture, access to green spaces and the health of the high street.
“Attractive surroundings, good neighbours and a comfortable home are the best defences when the stresses of modern life seem overwhelming.
“This guide is a celebration of towns, cities and villages that are each a fantastic place to live in 2023 from Orkney to Felixstowe, the Chew Valley to Manchester city centre.
“Whether you’re downsizing, trading up or getting on to the property ladder, there will be somewhere to suit you.”
– The full list can be found online at thetimes.co.uk/bestplacestolive.