CHRISTMAS is coming and where better to spend the festive season than Hexham?

After all, the town is the happiest place to live in Britain, according to estate agent Rightmove.

More than 22,000 people across the country responded to Rightmove’s happy at home index survey, which asked them a series of questions.

From community spirit, to the provision of local amenities such as sports facilities, arts and culture, shops, restaurants, doctors’ surgeries, schools and green spaces,they were also asked how safe they feel within their community, and about the friendly nature of local people.

Hexham topped the list, finishing ahead of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, and Richmond-upon-Thames in South London.

The fanfare led to regional and national attention for Hexham, with mayor Coun. Bob Hull rightly praising the town’s sense of community, thriving theatre and arts centre, community-owned cinema, award winning parks, and historical sites.

The Courant spoke to residents and visitors, as well as people who work in Hexham to get their views on whether the town is as happy as Rightmove has concluded.

Rosina McLean (18) who works at Tesco said: “I think Hexham has a beautiful Market Place and such a lot of history. I did ballet in the Moot Hall which is an incredible building. I also like all the independent and vintage shops that Hexham has to offer.”

Fruit and vegetable stallholder Carole Allison has worked as a trader at Haxham Market for 28 years, and said it was a happy place to work.

“People come to see us without fail,” she said. “We have a lot of loyal customers who have become friends, and we meet a lot of visitors because people will always come to Hexham for what it has to offer.”

Resident Anna Bradley said she was happy in Hexham, but said expanding the shopping offer was key to economic growth.

She explained: “It is a nice place with some very good people, and I’m keen to stay here. I think there is potential for more variety of shops for the benefit of both local people and visitors.”

Haydon Bridge resident Jim Westwater regularly visits Hexham, and said the amenities are good for people who live across the Tyne Valley.

“You can get the bus to Hexham and have a look around the shops,” he said. “You can walk around in a friendly environment and often you’ll meet a familiar face.

“It’s just that kind of place, with good old fashioned values, and you don’t get the hustle and bustle of shopping in bigger places.”

Billy Fairless, manager of the Relate charity shop in St Mary’s Wynd, said Hexham must retain its flagship department store. Beales re-opened as Hexham Outlet Centre in September, but its long-term future has not been confirmed beyond February 2020.

“I really hope it stays,” said Billy. “It’s part of the town’s retail history and you need a big offering like a department store. If everyone in the Hexham area spent just a few pounds a week in the town centre, instead of shopping elsewhere, it would keep it ticking over.

“This year’s Halloween shop window display competition was popular, and that’s a sign of the community spirit here.”

Hexham resident Jane Wrigley said the town’s historic Abbey was the jewel in the crown. “Hexham is a great place to live,” she said. “We have all the amenities we need, with friendly people and good transport links.”