On Holiday in a Bookshop – Part 3: We Go West!

Before I wind my way west to Shropshire (where we stayed in week 2), just a quick mention for the Titles Bookshops. There’s a few dotted around the Peak District, but the one we visited was in North Parade in Matlock Bath. I picked up Christopher Somerville’s intriguing Never Eat Shredded Wheat in paperback for a bargain price (highly recommended if you want a light-hearted informative romp around the UK. I guarantee there will be stuff in there you didn’t know).Never Eat Shredded Wheat

ConstructoBoy, who likes to follow up his fiction interests with non-fiction, bought a book on handguns (because certain types are mentioned in Indiana Jones stories and he wanted to know about them. That’s what got him into tanks, too).

The Titles Bookshop there wasn’t huge but there was a good smattering of bargain and local interest books, together with helpful cheery staff. What more could you ask for?

For the second week of our holiday we abandoned the Peaks, collected my Mum then headed for Shropshire – swapping one set of hills for another (we obviously had a desire for hills – that’s what happens when you’ve moved to somewhere flat, y’know!) One of the bookshops we found there was Aardvark Books in the tiny village of Brampton Bryan, just off the A4113 Leintwardine-Lingen road.


Once again, a huuuge selection of books in a converted barn – and a place to enjoy some refreshments – and Arty Daughter was delighted because they had a graphic novels section. And yes, she had bought some the week before (in Scarthin Books – see On Holiday in a Bookshop Part One) but she reads them very, very quickly….sigh. And once again, helpful staff. Is it just running a bookshop that does that, d’you think, or is it the fact that they’re not preoccupied with trying to sell you lottery scratchcards and giant bars of chocolate at bargain prices…?
Next time we venture to Hay-on-Wye 😉

On Holiday in a Bookshop – Part 2

In shock news, I must report that Scarthin Books isn’t the only bookshop in the Peak District.
Honestly, it’s true. There’s another one.

This is Bookstore Brierlow Bar, 3 miles from Buxton. It claims that it is the largest bargain bookshop in the country, along with its sister store, Oakmere. I’m not entirely sure what criteria it bases this on; the website claims it has “over 20,000 different titles in stock at any given time”, but I’ve heard plenty of bookshops claim they have more. But it’s pretty darn big, and I defy you not to find something you want to buy. (2017 edit – this is now High Peak Bookstore and Cafe).

The staff – as claimed! – were very knowledgeable and helpful, but Arty Daughter and I were rather disappointed at the answer we received when we expressed surprise over the lack of graphic novels (in fact there were barely any ‘real’ graphic novels there, just a few glossy comic collections). We were told that they had given up stocking them because they “never seemed to stock the ones people were asking for.” Which kind of made me wonder why they didn’t note down which ones people were asking for, and stock them…

But it is a great bookshop, with genuinely bargain prices and a fantastic range of non-fiction and children’s books. Not to mention bird feeding supplies! And there’s also a place to sit down for a cuppa if the choice gets too overwhelming.

So if you should be wandering along the A515 towards Ashbourne, pop in!



Huntingdon – The Booklovers’ Capital of the UK!

Sorry to break into the bookshop blogs, but sometimes breaking news just has to take precedence!
It’s not often I’m shocked by anything in the Hunts Post. This isn’t a derogatory comment – as I discussed in a blog post many moons ago, it’s rather nice to now live in an area where, some weeks, there just aren’t any knife fights or drug raids to report. But it’s taken some getting used to; I still chuckle at front page stories like ‘new owl chicks at zoo given names’ and page 2 shouting ‘local teen pushed off bicycle!’. My best friend also ’emigrated’ to a rural location at the same time, and has equally dramatic stuff in her local paper – cue much headline swapping hilarity in our letters and phone calls!

But yesterday, when the Hunts Post crashed on to my doormat, I picked it straight up (my day off!) and…
I had to sit down with a frothy coffee to take it in.
Could Huntingdon – my nearest town – really be ‘the book-buying capital of the UK?’ Even though its only book outlets are standard charity shops, a small WHSmith (which now incorporates the post office) and – as of June – an Oxfam bookshop?? I turned in fevered haste (if you’ll forgive the cliche) to page 4…
Well apparently, yes. Or perhaps…not.

The Hunts Post was merely joining the many other newspapers and booktrade websites who had already made much of the fact that, according to Amazon, Huntingdon residents buy more books than any other town.
From them, anyway.

Amazon recently released a top 20 book buyers list of towns and cities (20,000+ residents only). It takes account of traditional publications and Kindle format.

1. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
2. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
3. Sevenoaks, Kent
4. Rochester, Kent
5. Salisbury, Wiltshire
6. Chichester, West Sussex
7. Canterbury, Kent
8. Truro, Cornwall
9. Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
10. Doncaster, South Yorkshire
11. Winchester, Hampshire
12. Godalming, Surrey
13. Spalding, Lincolnshire
14. Warwick, Warwickshire
15. Newton Abbot, Devon
16. Durham, County Durham
17. Whitney, Oxfordshire
18. Oxford, Oxfordshire
19. Tonbridge, Kent
20. York, North Yorkshire

The Hunts Post had dug further down in the data and discovered that Huntingdon is at no.1 in the food & drink category and children’s books, and no.2 in non-fiction and science fiction.
What does that say about my local folk? We predominantly have large well-fed families who dress like Klingons at the weekend?

Huntingdon High Street

Perhaps it just mean that, in an area that’s traditionally tech-savvy and at the forefront of scientific advances, the people I now live amongst do more of their shopping online. Living as they do in the liberal sprinkling of often tiny hamlets and villages that fill the triangle formed by Bedford, Peterborough and Cambridge, perhaps it’s an easier option than having to go to one of those ‘big 3’ to find a decently-sized bookshop (I’m sorry, St.Neots, but your minuscule Waterstones-within-Barratts t’aint a lot of good to man or beast).

I certainly don’t think it means that people in Huntingdon buy more books than people in all the other towns and cities in the UK. Particularly when you consider that Huntingdon only just scraped over the 20,000 residents mark this year. Quite hilariously, the Hunts Post nabbed 8 people in the High Street and asked them about their bookish habits. Only 2 said they bought books from Amazon. 3 said they got their books from the library, 1 said charity shops, 1 said Waterstone’s or Oxfam, and the other just commented that they had bought their last book on a ferry from Denmark!

Huntingdon Library

The Guardian pointed out:
Amazon “has no evidence its purchasers actually read the books they buy, however, and maybe, just maybe, inhabitants of those towns which fail to appear on the list have been avoiding Amazon to buy their books elsewhere – let’s hope from their local independents, which have been having a rough time of it lately.” Indeed! Which is a good reason to big up some more bookshops tomorrow!

It would be interesting to see if other online retailers have similar figures. I might ask Techie Husband, who works for The Other Big One, if his company collate area data too. Watch this space…

“On Holiday In A Bookshop!” Part One

At least, that’s what ConstructoBoy said he felt like one day.

He did have a point. We did visit a LOT of bookshops on holiday. But he stopped complaining in week 2 when he found a book on his beloved zeppelins in Hay-On-Wye.
But hey, that’s week 2.  We should start at the beginning (unless we’re writing a novel, where sometimes the beginning is too boring, forcing us to leap instead into writing the Action).

Week 1 was a fantastic week in the Peak District; just Techie Husband, Arty Daughter, ConstructoBoy and me. We stayed in this cottage that you would love to stay in too (unless you have joint problems or you’re pregnant. Long, narrow, steep, uneven, twisty staircase. take note).

This is Brook Cottage in Cromford, just a few minutes from Matlock Bath – and you can see how lovely it is inside and learn more about it here on the owners’ website. (2017 edit – sadly, you can’t anymore. It no longer appears to be for rent). The cottages part of Staffordshire Row, a row of cottages built in the 1720s for the Staffordshire workers brought in to work in the old smelting mill.

Not only was the cottage lovely – handy for a myriad of tourist attractions and lovely walks, located in a scenic village with a fascinating history – but it also had the marvellous advantage of being a 90-second walk from HERE.

Scarthin Books is, if you’ll excuse the cliche, a rabbit’s warren full of books on just about anything you can think of. There are new books, old books, calendars, postcards, a million staircases and tiny rooms off of other tiny rooms… sometimes there are even bookcases on the (million) staircases. And in the midst of this bibliophile’s cloud nine is a little cafe – complete with more bookcases and a magazine rack, so that you can read something intelligent over lunch. It serves the most amazing gorgeous vegetarian food and leads out onto a garden room (more books!).

If you’ve never eaten Homity Pie, make sure you have your first one there. It’s making my mouth water right now just thinking about it. They have a novel (haha) approach to the whole business of running a bookshop – and running a cafe – and the shop is a borderline community centre and tourist attraction in its own right. It’s been on TV, and in a recent edition of Booktime magazine. To see what I mean, pop over to their website, and for goodness sake – if you’re anywhere near the Peak District, pop in! If you spend all day there and they finally throw you out, weeping, as darkness falls, fear not. Wander down the road to the centre of the village and you’ll find The Marketplace restaurant. Not Brewers’ Fayre prices, but not exorbitant either, particularly if you go for one of their special offer menus and, most importantly, we all agreed it was one of the best meals we had ever had. We plan to visit both places again Very, Very Soon.

Tomorrow I’ll rave about the other bookshops we visited. But that’s quite enough excitement for now. And daydreaming about Homity Pie has made me hungry…