Sometimes, you just have to make the most of a collapsed plan. We were all set to visit the Festival of History at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire this weekend, until the weather did a dirty on us, and flooded the site the evening before it was due to open.
We found a silver lining to that rain-sodden cloud, tucked away in the lanes of rural Warwickshire. A bookshop that swallowed us whole and ejected us hours later, giddy and shine-eyed.
The Astley Book Farm, near Bedworth in Warwickshire, is one of those places that makes book junkies like TLC and I slaver with glee. A vastly rambling labyrinth of a place, it runs over several converted barns, and covers everything from exquisite rare items and achingly exclusive collectibles all the way down to what the proprietors call “the ten-bob barn” – battered old paperbacks by the stackful. It’s one of those places where you can drop a big wedge of cash on the book of your dreams, or a surprisingly small amount on a couple of carrier bags full of swag. That was the approach we took, grabbing a armful apiece of thrillers, classic SF and fantasy and historic. The pic to right shows off our stack in all its magnificence.
The Book Farm is not a place that rewards the abstemious or frugal approach. It’s stuffed full of books, and they all want to come home with you. The average volume goes for a couple of quid. We both went back to the cash desk a couple of times, stumbling across must-haves after declaring the quest to be over. TLC found one of her childhood favourites, Ian Seraillier’s The Silver Sword, that had come in that morning and hadn’t even been priced. It had to be done.
Bookshops like The Book Farm are a brilliant antidote to places like Waterstone’s. Eccentric, wonky and filled with a low, warm glow of love for the power of words. They have an on-site book-binder that will repair and restore any treasures that need fixing. There’s even a cafe with great coffee and snacks (we recommend the Warwickshire sausage roll, a great chunk of porky deliciousness that puts your Ginster’s nonsense to shame) and wifi. You could, I suppose, if you were a complete churl, hook into Amazon and pick up a title or two on your Kindle if they didn’t have the title you really wanted in stock. But that would be deeply low-class. And the staff pride themselves on being able to grab anything your little heart could desire.
The Book Farm is a remarkable, dizzying maze of literary goodness. If you’re bibliophilic, then I guarantee that you’ll find it impossible to walk out with anything less than an armful.
Go get some.
The Astley Book Farm is off Astley Lane, near Bedworth in Warwickshire. More here.