The East of England is the second largest English region by area at around 19,100 square kilometres, smaller than only the South West. The region covers 9 per cent of the total area of the UK and has a diverse urban and rural make-up with many scattered urban, town and fringe areas, and a predominantly rural area in northern Norfolk.
The East of England incorporates Hertfordshire and Essex (directly adjoining Greater London), Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the North and lastly, bordering the North Sea, Suffolk and above it, Norfolk, on the East Coast.
Express train links from the North of England to Kings Cross and St. Pancras station mean that many towns and cities within the northern counties of the East of England are within a commutable distance of London. Commuters regularly use regional transport links from the more easterly towns and cities. As a result, the daily commuter run from even the furthest points of the region have become the norm. Easy access to Stansted and Luton airports and to the ferry terminal at Felixstowe means that visits to mainland Europe for business or pleasure are relatively straight-forward.
The region has the lowest elevation range in the UK. North Cambridgeshire and the Essex Coast have most of the around 5% of the region which is below 10 metres above sea level. The Fens are partly in North Cambridgeshire, which is notable for the lowest point in the country. With the weather often coming from the North Sea, the climate is relatively mild in the summer months, but can be chillingly cold when the East wind blows across the Fens. The East of England is one of the driest areas of the UK, as the prevailing winds from the West have often lost their force by the time they reach the region.
With a population of around 6 million, Bedford, Luton, Basildon, Peterborough, Southend-on-Sea, Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford and Cambridge are the largest cities. Bedford, Peterborough and Cambridge are historical Cathedral cities surrounded by countryside and yet within commuting distance of London. However, in addition to being a reasonable journey from London, Cambridge, in particular, and to a lesser degree, Peterborough, have become cities to which London-based organisations have relocated in recent years.
Cambridge is probably the best known as the counterpart to Oxford and one of the oldest university cities in the UK, as well as a centre for Scientific and Medical research in particular. The cities of Basildon, Bedford and Luton have historically had a more industrial association (notably through the motor industry).
With foreign-born residents estimated to be around 500,000 in the East of England, it is fair to assume that approximately 1:10 residents were born outside the UK. However, these numbers do not take into account the sizeable second and third generation families of immigrants who make up significant parts of the population in many of the cities and towns in East Anglia. In addition to families of Indian and Pakistani descent, a substantial Polish population has settled in the East of England, together with families from Ireland and Germany (many of whom came originally to work in the agricultural areas), as well as sizeable numbers of Italian migrant families.
Top: The Fens; Second from top, Colchester; 2nd from bottom, an aerial view of Bedford; Above, The cathedral and university town of Cambridge
In many ways, for expatriates considering a move to the UK for whom the East of England may be a sensible option, the region has much to recommend it. The history and culture of the Cathedral cities, the accessibility of London, the contrast between the flat Fenland countryside (reminiscent of the Netherlands and Belgium), and the attractive rolling countryside of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire make this an interesting area to live in and to travel around. Almost every village will have a public house worth a visit – and most will have an Indian restaurant not to be missed. Add to this the seaside towns along the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline and the options to escape the UK with relative ease and the East of England is an attractive consideration.
It is also worth mentioning that property prices in the region (both for purchase and rental) are considerably below those of London and the South-East. With average purchases prices in the East of England at GBP 279,000 compared with GBP 313,000 in the South East and GBP 413,000 in London**, and rental prices at GBP 919, compared with GBP 1,025 in the South East and GBP 1,564 in London there are serious savings to be made in the East of England property market. (Homes and Property January 2017 sales data, Homelet July 2017 rental data).
Finally, add to this the wealth of private schools – almost 200 – in the region, including such well-known names as Bedford, Berkhamstead, Kings School Ely, Radlett, Summerhill and Tring to name but a few, and parents will have potentially have a range of excellent schooling options available to them.