According to a survey by the New Economics Foundation carried out in 2010, four in ten of UK towns have become clones of one another; each one full of identikit chain stores. Indeed, if you were dropped in the centre of many towns it would be hard to identify whether you were in Surrey or Scotland.
Thankfully, however, there are still a few towns where individuality is still the key and Narberth in Pembrokeshire is one such gem.
Narberth is thriving whilst other towns wither and the secret to this success in the days of internet shopping is the plethora of wonderful, individual shops which make up this tiny Welsh town and attract shoppers from as far a field as Cardiff and London. Shopping in Narberth is a pleasure and many people come for the day to wander round the shops and enjoy lunch at one of the delicious cafes or restaurants. Parking in the car park costs £1 for the whole day; extremely reasonable compared with many towns.
I am often asked by people considering moving to Pembrokeshire, or visiting here, whether we have a Waitrose, as if this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No, I reply, but we have Narberth with its award winning butchers, greengrocers, delis, handmade chocolate shop, homemade ice cream shop, cakes shops, cafes and restaurants. Who would not prefer to buy their Sunday joint from a friendly local butcher who can tell you exactly where the meat came from; their honey from a shop a couple of miles from where it was produced or their chocolates from the person who actually made them rather than a supermarket. Drinking your cappuccino in a café such as Ultracomida where they know you and have time for a chat is infinitely preferable to sitting in a Costa Coffee, Starbucks or other faceless multiple.
Not only can Narberth boast top quality food shops but it is also packed full of galleries, antique and vintage shops, present shops, boutiques, kitchen shops, jewellers, etc; in fact everything you can think of apart from a high street chain.
There are regular craft sales in the town hall; concerts; a superb plant fair; the annual Help for Heroes Colossal Cake Sale which this year is on 10th May and, of course, Narberth Food Festival which has grown into a major event attracting celebrity chefs and top food producers from throughout the UK and is held in September. There is also the Summer Carnival and Civic Week and Winter carnival when floats parade through the streets. Narberth is a town where community spirit is alive and well.
West Wales is fortunate in having several other towns which do not conform to the urban clone; Cardigan in Ceredigion has a lovely old-fashioned feel with its individual shops and the great Barley Fair where the beautiful Welsh cobs parade through the streets and Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire is another offering shoppers the chance to experience small, independent shops.
If you are visiting West Wales and would like to stay at a traditional farmhouse bed and breakfast just 5 minutes drive from Narberth, do come and see us at Pembrokeshire Farm bed and breakfast, Caermaenau Fawr, where a warm welcome is assured.