THE chairman of an Usk community group has spoken of how the town being named ‘best place to live in Wales’ feels like recognition of residents’ hard work.

Usk claimed the crown of the top place to live in the annual Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide.

The Sunday Times’s expert judges behind the guide assess a wide range of factors, from schools, air quality, transport and broadband speeds to culture, green spaces and the health of the high street.

They look for improving towns, villages or city centres, for attractive, well designed homes and locations bursting with community spirit - which the pandemic has shown to be the most vital quality of all.

Dave Williams, chairman of Usk In Bloom, said that the accolade was “fantastic”.

“As a team, it’s recognition for the community and the community groups working together and all of their hard work,” he said.

“We’re a small community, but we have lots of variation.

“There are things for all ages, all interests.

“New independent businesses even came to the town through the difficulty of Covid.”

Usk wowed the judges, seeing off competition from Aberdyfi in Gwynedd, Cleddau Estuary in Pembrokeshire, and Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.

It was the community spirit that caught the judges’ eyes.

There are 60 thriving community groups which were stronger than ever in the pandemic, with the Usk in Bloom volunteers lifting everyone’s spirits with a riot of pink and purple petals.

Awards for community work are not unusual to Usk, with the town receiving an international award for community groups back in 2014.

“For us it’s fantastic to be recognised by such a prestigious organisation,” said Mr Williams of the town’s latest award.

“National recognition. Fantastic.”

Usk In Bloom has been a recognised group for more than 40 years.

However, Mr Williams was keen to stress that “it’s not just us”.

“We’ve tried hard to work with everyone through the hashtag #UskActionGroups,” he explained.

“During the last 12 months this has developed really strongly.”

Usk high street is home to salons, restaurants such as 57 Bridge Street and a dozen or so pubs and bars, which remain at the heart of life, including The New Court Inn, the Lines Brew Co, White Hare Distillery or the Mad Platter.

There is also a farmers’ market and plenty of independent shops, galleries and cafés

Helen Davies, The Times and Sunday Times property editor said: “This guide has never been so important.

“The pandemic has taught us just how much we rely on our homes, our communities and our surroundings.

“The Town of Flowers is our top choice in Wales, thanks to the unrivalled enthusiasm of its population whose efforts and energy are behind Usk’s award-winning floral displays and much more.”