18 November 2014
I must admit to being surprised on hearing that Salisbury had been voted the best city in England in which to live. This is not, after working there for 13 years, that my inside knowledge gives me an insight into the city not apparent to the outsider, it’s just that I had taken its charms for granted and not stopped to think about it before.
However, it does not take long to realise that of the 50 other cities in England, Salisbury definitely has an edge and for the first time this has been recognised. First, it is relatively small with a population of about 45,000 souls which gives it a rare air of intimacy. In fact, I have always felt ‘city’ a misnomer – market town with a cathedral would be more apt.
And what a cathedral – Salisbury’s most distinguishing feature is this magnificent 14th century building with its 404 foot spire. This is the tallest in England and dwarves Salisbury’s other special feature - the Cathedral Close. This collection of outstanding historic buildings set around the precincts of Cathedral Green – a village green on steroids – is to my mind one of the prettiest groups of buildings in the country. These houses are of course hugely prized and sought after.
It is not just architecture and size that make Salisbury stand apart – its setting at the confluence of five chalk streams on meadows once painted by Constable is sublime with the added bonus that it does not take forever to get there. It could not be said to be commutable (although some hardy souls do it) being about 1.5 hours by train from London but it does lie on the cusp of the daily and twice/weekly commutes making a move to the area from London, to take advantage of the great schools in the region well, within the realms of possibility for a lot of people who don’t need to be in the smoke every day and value quality of life. The Government’s recent announcement about road improvements, which will include the long awaited upgrade of the A303, will make road travel less disheartening as well. So, shame on me for not shouting about it before but Salisbury is a pretty special place.’