UK’s best High Street is Welsh valleys town Treorchy
A high street in the south Wales valleys has been named best in the UK.
Treorchy’s bustling centre has been praised for its thriving community.
The former mining town in Rhondda saw off stiff competition for the accolade from high streets across the UK – including two rivals from Wales.
UK High Streets Minister Jake Berry said the award reflected “the grit and determination of local people who are dedicated to supporting their communities”.
Treorchy beat both Narberth in Pembrokeshire and Swansea for the title, after being nominated by pub landlord Adrian Emmett.
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“It’s about our town – it’s about our whole community,” said Mr Emmett, who won an individual High Street Champion award for his efforts in Treorchy.
“Who are we – how dare we, a small little town in the valleys think we can beat the best in Britain?
“But we showed them up – we proved to them, even though we were the underdog, Treorchy is officially the champion high street of Great Britain.”
The high street has about 100 shops – with the vast majority being independents and 60% run by women. The occupancy rate is currently at 96% with two empty shops being refurbished.
“There’s such a lot of variety here and everyone is so friendly,” said Lynette Click, 71, from nearby Ystrad.
“There’s some great cafes too. I can get most of what I need locally. Always a nice atmosphere in the shops, cafes and on the street.
“They’re showing everyone else how it can be done. I think we’ve let go of our high streets too easily.”
Alison Chapman, who has run Wonder Stuff gift shop and tea rooms for 20 years, says the award is thanks to the hard work of the local community.
“Some businesses have been here for more than 30 years and there’s plenty of new businesses too,” said the mum of twins.
“Every shop here brings its own character. It’s always been a good place to shop with residents supporting us.”
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About 20 new businesses have opened in the last three years and seven in the last six months.
Matt Murray, BBC Wales reporter in Treorchy
The first thing you notice when you pull up in Treorchy is that the high street is bustling with a real mix of ages.
The majority of the shops here are independent. You have a real mix – with your staples of the high street too.
It helps that it’s in the middle of a residential area, so people can walk straight out of their door and start shopping.
I’ve spent the morning here and locals tell me if a shop does close, it’s not long before a new business starts.
Each shop has its individuality, such as the cafe aptly called Hot Gossip to the chippy named A Fish Called Rhondda.
- Treorchy was a rural hamlet owned by great landowner Marquess of Bute before the discovery of coal
- The first colliery opened in 1859 and it boomed into a town
- The area suffered a steep decline when the pits closed
- The town has a famous singing history, home to the Treorchy Male Voice Choir and Max Boyce’s cult album ‘Live at Treorchy’ – and its rugby anthem ‘Hymns and Arias’
- Football referee Clive Thomas is from Treorchy and is most remembered by blowing the final whistle of a 1978 World Cup game just after a corner kick had been taken, controversially disallowing a possible Brazil winner by Zico against Sweden.
The winner follows Crickhowell in Powys, which claimed the high street crown in 2018.
Caernarfon in Gwynedd was also honoured at the awards in Edinburgh, when it was named as Wales’ “Rising Star” for the revival of Palace Street, in the shadow of the town’s imposing castle.
The UK’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick added: “Congratulations to Treorchy on being crowned the UK’s best high street in this year’s awards and to Wales for winning the top prize for the second year in a row.
“Our Great British high streets are one of the great cornerstones of our society. They are places where our economies and our communities flourish and key to our levelling up agenda.”