PEOPLE who live there are healthier, live longer, earn more and have easy access to beautiful countryside.

That’s why the New Forest and Test Valley are among the best rural places to have your home in the UK, according to a new survey published today.

Halifax’s Quality of Life report ranks districts on criteria including health and life expectancy, exam results, employment and earnings, the environment, crime rates and house price affordability.

The New Forest came in as the 27th best rural place for quality of life in Britain while Test Valley ranked two places lower.

The survey shows people living in the New Forest earn a gross weekly average of £632, while people in Test Valley pocket an average £652.

Employment rates in both regions are above the national average. An average of 76.4 per cent of people in the New Forest are employed, exceeded by Test Valley with 77.6 per cent of people employed.

An average of 83.6 per cent of households in the New Forest have more than 2Mbps broadband speeds, with Test Valley scoring higher with 84.1 per cent.

People in the New Forest can enjoy a life expectancy of 81.3 years, and people in Test Valley are expected to live up to 80.4 years.

The survey found the New Forest basks in an average of 1,775 hours of sunshine a year, but the Test Valley area can only muster 1,655 hours.

Both areas share an average of 27.3 pupils per class in schools, and 78.3 per cent of pupils achieve five or more GCSE A-C grades.

Burglary rates in the New Forest and Test Valley are below the national average with 16.8 and 15.1 break-ins per 10,000 population respectively.

The Isle of Wight was found to have the highest average weekly sunshine hours in the whole of the UK, clocking an impressive 37.4 hours a week.

Cllr Edward Heron, from New Forest District Council, said he was “very pleased”

about the rural district’s ranking.

He said: “The first thing is it’s such a beautiful place.

“I think the fact that the open forest is key in that, but there are other good things such as good quality services in the area.”

Cllr Clive Collier, from Test Valley Borough Council, was also delighted.

He said: “Test Valley is a jewel in the country’s crown.

Romsey is a delightful town, which is going to grow.”