Sharon Chilcott meets Nikki Dale, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre (CRiC), to find out more about the town’s Great British High Street and its welcoming community.
When did you move to Crickhowell?
About eight years ago, following in the footsteps of my parents who had retired to the area from Kent. My husband and I were drawn to the town because we were aware of its great reputation, warm, friendly people and community feel. We were also swung by the good schools and the surrounding area, which is stunning.
For you, personally, what’s the best thing about living there?
I have three children, the youngest nine months and the oldest aged seven and I have to say that Crickhowell is a wonderful place to raise a young family. There are baby and toddler groups on every day of the week in various venues which means, as a mother, you do not feel isolated. The schools are highly regarded and known for creating an environment which allows children to thrive. Dedicated local volunteers run after school clubs which range from Brownies and Cubs to football, rugby, dance and more. For older children the Volunteer Bureau (based in CRiC) run a well-regarded Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme encouraging them to take part in caving, camping, canoeing, riding, hiking and so on.
Where would you shop locally?
We are honoured to have been the overall winner of the Great British High Street Awards in 2018 and have a bunch of independent shops which offer everything you need for everyday shopping and for something special, too. It is so refreshing to go into shops and be met with a friendly smile and assistance, if necessary, like Cashells the Butchers who advise me on different cuts of meat and tempt me with tastings of new cheeses (yummy!) and Grenfells & Sons Grocers who deliver shopping if you need it.
Our award-winning High Street has everything from family-owned department store Webbs to Cashells or Richards, the butchers, to Natural Weigh, Wales’ first zero waste shop, to CwCw for lovely clothing and the Welsh independent bookshop of the year, Book-ish.
Describe the vibe in your favourite local café or pub…
We are lucky to have a great range of unique and privately-run eateries, cafés and pubs, all with their own vibe. I love them all!
Where would you book up for a celebratory meal?
One of three places – The Bear for a wonderful steak; The Vine Tree for their cocktails or The Gliffaes Hotel for a scrummy afternoon tea!
Where would you go for a more relaxed vibe?
The Dragon, with its cosy open fire, is a favourite for Sunday roast and they do a brilliant children’s version for the kiddie winks.
Where do you go for culture and entertainment?
You only need to step outside the front door. We are surrounded by many talented, local artists and a visit to the Oriel Gallery in CRiC is extremely worthwhile, to view pieces of art, jewellery and pottery. Crickhowell’s annual calendar includes the Art Trail and Open Studios in May and the Literary Festival in the autumn, plus a new Children’s Book Festival and regular events organised by Crickhowell Choral Society. Then there’s the Green Man music and arts festival held every August, which is wonderful for the area and very exciting to visit. For those interested in local history, there is also an Archive Centre based at CRiC which is run by enthusiastic volunteers who have a wealth of local knowledge on the history of the town and the surrounding areas, from Crickhowell Castle to Second World War plane wrecks.
Where do you go to “blow the cobwebs away”?
Here, we are in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park so you can go on any number of magnificent walks. From the town you can even venture up Table Mountain to enjoy the spectacular views and then you can return to the town for refreshments. Every year, there’s a wonderful Walking Festival in Crickhowell – next year’s runs for nine days from March 7 and caters for all level of walkers. Perfect for blowing away the cobwebs!!
What leisure pursuits do you enjoy locally?
I am a horse rider so I am biased when I say we have the best off road riding! For those who don’t own their own horse there are a number of local stables offering full day hacks, which are a great way to view the surrounding countryside.
What’s the social life like in Crickhowell?
It can be as quiet or as lively as you want it to be. Clarence Hall is a venue for musical evenings, talks and cinema nights; there is a vast U3A community for those over the age of 50; during the summer there are duck races on the river, local fetes and fairs and with Brecon and Abergavenny extremely close you can broaden your horizons in any direction.
How would you advise someone new into the area to get to know the locals?
I would highly recommend volunteering in CRiC, which is the hub of the town. You get to know so many people and keep on top of what’s going on. Joining local clubs and groups is also a very good idea.
Where are your favourite places to go on outings with your children?
The park here in Crickhowell; the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, where we feed the ducks; Cantref Adventure Farm and Llangorse Activity Centre both near Brecon and Big Pit, which makes for a fantastic day out for adults and children alike.
Where else would you take adult friends?
Round the town – there is so much there to see (and buy!); we’d also go up Table Mountain for the views and to look round Tretower Court and Raglan Castle.
What’s the best time of year in Crickhowell?
Christmas!! We have the Christmas Lights Switch On and a visit from Father Christmas on November 23 this year and on December 5 we have our Christmas in Crickhowell event with late-night opening, a Christmas Fair and street entertainment. The buzz is amazing.
Tell me one fascinating fact about Crickhowell…
One of the town’s landmarks is its Eighteenth Century bridge, the longest stone bridge in Wales, which spans the River Usk. Look closely and you will notice that it has 12 arches on one side and 13 the other. A wider arch, on the Crickhowell end, was added in the 1800s to replace two earlier ones.
Facts and Figures
The small market town of Crickhowell boasts a picturesque setting, alongside the River Usk with the spectacular landscapes of the Black Mountains to the north and the Llangattock Mountain to the south. Recognised for its vibrant High Street with its wealth of independent shops, it topped the Sunday Times list of Best Places to Live in Wales in April 2019. At its hub is Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre (CRiC), which houses the Tourist Information Centre, an art gallery and internet café. For more information about Crickhowell visit: www.visitcrickhowell.co.uk
Photos: Sharon Chilcott