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Review and Video of Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre, Brecon Beacons

Reviews
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Posted by John Sannaee at 04:30 on Friday 31 May 2013

Anyone heading to the Usk Valley or eastern Brecon Beacons should make a stop at Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre, as John Sannaee finds out on a trip to the town known as the ‘glittering jewel of the vale’.

>> Jan Morgan, Elsa Clemenson and Suzette Pratten from Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre are Brecon Beacon National Park Ambassadors

Lovely Crickhowell in the Usk Valley. Photo © John SannaeeLovely Crickhowell in the Usk Valley. Photo © John Sannaee

The Setting
Crickhowell sits between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons themselves, in the lovely meadows of the Usk Valley. A smooth road journey from Abergavenny or Brecon, this pretty little town is home to a wealth of independent shops and businesses, and at the centre of it all is its beating heart: CRiC.

The CentreCRiC: At the heart of the community and visitor experience. Photo © John SannaeeCRiC: At the heart of the community and visitor experience. Photo © John Sannaee

At first glance, this purpose built information centre could be mistaken for a particularly well-equipped tourist information bureau; but take a second look, or ask a second question, and you’ll realise that Crickhowell’s Resource and Information Centre is far more than that. Yes, it offers all the information, maps, and guides that you could need for a visit to the area (many of which are free, or locally produced and very cheap), but it also is home to a bright and spacious café, a wealth of local facilities, office spaces and meeting rooms, and - best of all – a gallery. Featuring themed exhibitions (changing every eight weeks), the gallery showcases the best of the impressive local art scene, and sometimes hosts work from artists from further afield. Located on the first floor, it is well worth the short hop up the stairs.

The Food
CRiC boasts a light and airy café for drinks and locally made nibbles; if you’re looking for somewhere to have a proper meal in town, centre coordinator Jan recommends No18 and the Courtroom Café for their delicious, locally sourced food (both are a minute’s walk away on the High Street). Alternatively, pop into one of Crickhowell’s independent delis to make yourself a picnic to enjoy on a local walk or stroll.

 

Activities, Services & Festivals - for Visitors and the Community
Despite only having come into existence seven years ago, CRiC has already become a cornerstone of the town and a must for anyone seeking ideas and information for their stay in the Brecon Beacons. Maybe it’s because they’re a young centre, but they’re constantly looking for new ways to help people get the most of Crickhowell and the surrounding mountains – from quizzes for children and adults to guide you in your discovery of the area, to an expanding range of events and festivals, there is far more happening at CRiC than you . In early spring, come for the Crickhowell Walking Festival, which they set-up and still organise, or in late May enjoy the art trail: this year 42 venues around the town and the eastern Brecon Beacons area will play host to the works of 60 local artists, and CRiC is even laying on bus tours to help people get to see the art without using their car.

A huge range of leaflets, guides, and maps are on offer. Photo © John SannaeeA huge range of leaflets, guides, and maps are on offer. Photo © John Sannaee

CRiC is really a place where attention is paid to detail, be it with visitors, or the local community. Constantly finding ways to improve their offer of facilities, the centre works with the local community, businesses and artists as a way of showcasing them and keeping the local economy alive and flourishing: everything you see in the shop, from woodwork to flour and jewellery, is made in the local area.

Leave only footprints on your Brecon Beacon trip. Photo © John SannaeeLeave only footprints on your Brecon Beacon trip. Photo © John Sannaee

The Green
CRiC has a fantastic green ethos; in fact they did not even need to make changes to be awarded Gold by the Green Tourism Business Scheme. With a solar panel to provide hot water, bulk buying and recycling schemes, locally sourced food in the café, and a range of literature for visitors on the local wildlife and environment, environmentally friendly at CRiC is just a natural extension of the care they show to their community and visitors.

How to get to CRiC by public transport
CRiC’s central location on the A40 in Crickhowell puts it within easy striking distance of a huge part of the Brecon Beacons, including by good cycling roads to Abergavenny, the area’s principal rail gateway (direct services to much of Wales and up to Manchester, plus numerous onward connections to London and the rest of England and Wales). Racks for secure bike parking are thoughtfully provided in front of the centre. There is also an hourly bus service from the station along the A40 into Crickhowell, though change times between bus and train can be tight.

A rich and varied range of exhibitons from local artists in the gallery at CRiC. Photo © John SannaeeA rich and varied range of exhibitons from local artists in the gallery at CRiC. Photo © John Sannaee

Top Tip
It’s not just what the building has to offer that makes CRiC special: its life and soul are its seventy-strong team of volunteers (usually working one morning or afternoon per week) and four staff. Going beyond a little welcome cheer, the people who work here are goldmines of local information. Take advantage of this local knowledge, so amicably offered: explain what you would like to get out of your trip to the area, and they will be only too happy to help you.

Verdict
CRiC bucks the trend: a tourist information centre that has become a destination in its own right. With an exemplary website and easy public transport access, this should be your first stop for information and advice on any trip to the area, whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth. Get the best tips on cafés serving locally sourced produce, find beautiful walks and hikes at the right level for you, and help support local artists and businesses: pay a visit to Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre.

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