Hay-On-Wye: The book town

Hay-On-Wye: The book town

What makes your town unique? Many places are distinctive, but not all have a characteristic that stands out above all other features to become the identity of the town. This can often be a product of an existing strong town character combined with a catalyst such as an entrepreneur with a big idea.

It is often not the intention to create a brand or theme for a town, but this can emerge over time. The most successful distinctiveness strategies are embedded in the physical environment of a town; examples such as Hay-on-Wye and Machynlleth have been successful because of their location and setting.

Distinctiveness can extend beyond the boundaries of a town to the national and international stage. This can create a driving force for a vision that unites the community and can provide economic benefits. However, to achieve this requires commitment, time and support.


Hay-on-Wye: The Book Town

Lying in the Wye Valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Hay was traditionally a sheep farming town and a stop-over for those travelling to Brecon. In 1963, Richard Booth opened the first second hand bookshop in Hay. The town was an ideal location for an international trade in books- close to Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff for local trade, far enough from London to escape the capital’s influence, and with easy links to Ireland. By the 1970’s over 30 bookshops had opened in the town and today there are over 40. The spin-off Hay Literary Festival has an international reputation and attracts speakers and visitors from around the world. The festival attracted over 200,000 attendees in 2010 and over the course of a year the town and festival attract half a million visitors.

Bookshops are found all over Hay on Wye

Bookshops are found all over Hay on Wye

Machynlleth: A centre for sustainability

In 1973 the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) was founded outside Machynlleth. Growing from a ‘green’ community to a centre for demonstration of eco-friendly research, sustainable development, environmental protection and social inclusion, the site now receives around 65,000 visitors per annum. A focus on Eco-technology has generated new opportunities for employment, enterprise and tourism in the town. CAT directly employs 150 permanent and seasonal staff. It has attracted funding and employment to the town in the green building sector and has sparked green community regeneration projects such as EcoDyfi, a community renewable energy programme and the Dyfi EcoPark.


Mold : Slow Towns & slow food


Mold Town Centre; c Heritage Initiatives

Mold Town Centre; c Heritage Initiatives

The Cittaslow or slow town movement aims to encourage town residents to live and enjoy life at a human pace through conviviality and sustainability. Cittaslow provides a series of 55 goals that aim to involve the local community in taking practical actions to enhance the environment, infrastructure, local products, hospitality, and profile of a town.

Mold is Wales' first Cittaslow town.  Cittaslow Mold was conceived in October 2006 as its focus on food aligned well with the reputation the town was trying to develop. Once the decision had been made to adopt Cittaslow, the Town Council created a steering group of 15 organisations and many influential individuals that represented the diversity of the town's life. The guiding goals and principles of the movement form the foundation of initiatives, actions and projects across the town. The town now has a regular market and specialist farmers market focussing on local produce, an annual food and drink festival and the Bailey Hill Festival.  The group has also been instrumental in other initiatives in the town including the Mold Spring Clean, the Mold Sense of Place study, More Trees for Mold and funding for many projects across the town.

The international Cittaslow movement fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability. Membership of Cittaslow has brought Mold a range of benefits, including reassuring potential visitors and investors that it is well run and progressive, and unlocking funds from local and central government to help finance local initiatives.

Find out more: http://cittaslowmold.co.uk


AuthorMatthew Jones

 New housing developments offer the potential for imaginative, sustainable and well designed neighbourhoods that can add to the sense of place and community in your town or city.

The Triangle, a back lot site in Swindon, is the first product of a joint venture between Kevin McCloud’s HAB development company and Oakus, a division of Greensquare RSL. Studio Engleback’s design for the landscape of the Triangle encourages residents to engage with their environment.  A central village green with swales and a wildlife garden is supplemented by kitchen vegetable gardens with poly tunnels watered using rainwater from roofs, allotments and planters for fruit trees.

Studio Engleback created a cookbook, “GROW 2 EAT – an edible landscape manual”, that was given to all residents to explain where edible planting can be found, how to grow their own food and simple recipes to encourage ‘one planet living’ .






A simple idea- using empty and unproductive spaces to grow food- has inspired people in Todmorden and beyond to reconsider where their food comes from and how simple moves can transform public space.

The idea driving Incredible a Edible is simple: if you eat, you're in! Incredible Edible was founded in 2008 by a group of individuals in Todmorden concerned by the changing economy and climate change.  The idea is to use unproductive spaces to grow edible plants- from window boxes to roundabouts to canal embankments.  Incredible Edible is a community-led project delivering action through strong leadership that aims to focus community, learning and business on the production and consumption of locally grown food. 

The first propaganda gardens, as the team call their beds, were made on 'in your face' sites around the town where they were obvious. Made without permission, the gardens became a part of their place and despite initial reservations the 'pick your own' concept has evolved and been accepted by the town. 

Derelict land, public spaces and leftover corners have become areas for cultivation: vegetables sit alongside ornamental plants in public planters and flower beds; 200 fruit trees have been planted in the town centre, along with 500 fruit trees in a community orchard; raised beds have been planted around the town; and schools have developed growing areas and access to bee hives and poly tunnels. Projects have been created on a shoestring; for example, timber for early raised beds was sourced for free from building sites.

Results have included a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, improved relationships between the community and the police, food education in schools and new ways of looking at space. A simple idea has led to a variety of offshoot projects: new horticulture and agriculture based college courses, projects with housing associations, a new permaculture centre and even vegetable based tourist routes around the town! The aim by 2018 is to make Todmoden self sufficient in vegetables, eggs and orchard fruit and to enable the town to source as much else as possible from the local area. 

The idea has caught the public imagination and has extended from Todmorden, across Yorkshire to the rest of the UK and beyond; there are now 37 further Incredible Edible towns in the UK.