Historic Powys town Crickhowell named Wales town of the year by the Sunday Times.

How this achievement could be a good sign for other market towns in Mid Wales.

An Aerial view of Crickhowell and the River Usk

An Aerial view of Crickhowell and the River Usk

With my hometown (Builth Wells) hat on it could be easy to look South with more than a little envy. The rural town is rich with history, is just a stones-throw from Monmouthshire and the A40 and is host to established, well-known local brands. You can certainly see why it is an appealing prospect even before any community or regeneration work has been carried out. Notably the north Powys town, Montgomery has also made the top 10, positioned at 7 on the list. 

Both towns have seen an upsurge with local investment and have been working hard to deliver to their community regeneration plans. However, when you look at the consistencies of what these towns have to offer, and compare them to our local towns of Builth Wells, Rhayader, Llandrindod Wells, Brecon and Llanwrtyd Wells, there are some clear similarities. Breathtaking walks and cycle routes? Check. Independent local businesses that have been handed down generation to generation? Check. Landmarks and history? Check and check. Our road systems? Even the most optimistic observer would agree we have a challenge in that area. Maybe it’s the inner-marketeer talking but we could always promote our creaking road system as yet more Medieval history.  Okay, transport and freight routes aside, we certainly have a lot to offer through the whole of South Powys.

Turning our focus closer to home, I believe there is a lot to be optimistic about. I am certainly not claiming to be an expert in rural regeneration projects, however the it’s hard to argue against the view that the fundamentals for prosperity are all in place. The Builth Wells Chamber of Trade has re-launched with fresh energy and are actively planning for a bi-annual food festival at the Strand Hall (launching on May 4th) with the view to exhibit a wide array of local produce. Commotion, our rural business network (also a great opportunity for a hard earned drink after work on the first Friday of the month) is developing nicely after its inaugural meet-up last autumn. 

On the back of the successful re-opening of the Builth Wells Chamber of Trade, we are actively collaborating with the Cambrian Way project to boost local tourism, which in turn helps our high street and businesses in and around Builth Wells. Although the story of Prince Llewellyn’s last days is well known in the local area, it is a tale that we intend to share with visitors from all over the world through a series of attractions and local events. We are very excited by our challenge to make Builth Wells one of the most sought after places to visit (and live) in the UK.
— Jeremy Pugh, Powys County Councillor for Builth Wells

parkrun on the Groe is going from strength to strength with attendances still on an upward curve, even after such a fantastic launch in early March. We haven’t even factored-in the positive impact the peak tourism season will have for the event. I also wanted to highlight the great work that Charlotte Lloyd is doing with Around and About Builth. The local magazine has grown in stature and readership over the past couple of years and the new website has been launched last month to improve town’s online presence. I recommend that you head over to take a look and I wish Charlotte all the best in developing the website and directory for local businesses. 

So on to a topic that I am more qualified to discuss. There is one area that Builth Wells is definitely in need of a little TLC, that is our digital communications. We have a very active community but for over a decade our main source of communicating and selling to visitors has been found wanting for a lack of an official online brand or presence. Around and About Builth is a very welcome shot in the arm, adding to the sterling work carried out by Builth Wells Online. The great news is that there are ongoing discussions about the launch of an official town website in the near future. Watch this space!

We have a rather nice, well-known stone bridge as well!   Photo by Paul McNiffe

We have a rather nice, well-known stone bridge as well! Photo by Paul McNiffe

Congratulations to Crickhowell (and Montgomery) on what is a stand out achievement and a welcome sign that the traditional high street can have a vibrant future. Based on what I know about projects in both towns the success is hard-earned and also a great case study for what can be achieved when a group of like-minded and motivated people come together for a common cause. 

But watch your backs guys, we are coming after you! ;)