Britain's 50 most desirable rural areas to live in

Audley End House outside Saffron Walden is in Uttlesford, named Britain's most desirable rural location. Credit: Flickr / Mark Seton under Creative Commons agreement

Britain's most desirable rural area to live in has been named as Uttlesford in Essex - home to the historic town of Saffron Walden as well as Stansted Airport.

Uttlesford helped to push last year's winner, Waverley in Surrey, into third place for 2014, with South Northamptonshire ranked second in Halifax's annual rural quality of life survey.

Halifax uses a wide range of statistics from various sources to find the top countryside idylls, including those relating to the health, personal wellbeing and life expectancy of residents, crime rates, weather, employment, school results and broadband access.

The top 50 is as follows:

50 East Devon, South West

49 Newark and Sherwood, East Midlands

48 Tandridge, South East

47 Wealden, South East

46 Cherwell, South East

45 East Dorset, South West

44 Huntingdonshire, East of England

43 Shetland Islands, Scotland

42 Wiltshire, South West

41 Babergh, East of England

40 Suffolk Coastal, East of England

39 West Oxfordshire, South East

38 Tewkesbury, South West

37 Wychavon, West Midlands

36 West Berkshire, South East

35 North West Leicestershire, East Midlands

34 Cotswold, South West

33 Selby, Yorkshire and the Humber

32 Harborough, East Midlands

31 North Dorset, South West

30 Broadland, East of England

29 Hambleton, Yorkshire and The Humber

28 South Oxfordshire, South East

27 Tonbridge and Malling, South East

26 West Dorset, South West

25 New Forest, South East

24 Orkney Islands, Scotland

23 Ryedale, Yorkshire and the Humber

22 Test Valley, South East

21 Aylesbury Vale, South East

20 Malvern Hills, West Midlands

19 St Edmundsbury, East of England

18 Mid Suffolk, East of England

17 Melton, East Midlands

16 South Norfolk, East of England

15 Maldon, East of England

14 East Hampshire, South East

13 East Cambridgeshire, East of England

12 Rutland, East Midlands

11 North Kesteven, East Midlands

10 South Kesteven, East Midlands

9 Mid Sussex, South East

8 Chiltern, South East

7 Vale of White Horse, South East

6 South Cambridgeshire, East of England

5 Rushcliffe, East Midlands

4 East Hertfordshire, East of England

3 Waverley, South East

2 South Northamptonshire, East Midlands

1 Uttlesford, East of England

Popular with both tourists and commuters with its close links to London and Cambridge, the district of Uttlesford was formed in 1974 when several boroughs merged.

As well as being the setting for Saffron Walden, which has been hailed as one of the finest preserved examples of a medieval market town in the country and whose attractions include a museum and mazes, Uttlesford also cradles the towns of Thaxted and Great Dunmow.

Another reason people flock to Uttlesford is to pass through Stansted Airport, which employs over 10,000 people and is the fourth-busiest airport in the UK, with around 17.5 million passengers a year.