Sunday, 30 October 2011
Have you ever been to Hay-on-Wye? If you love books, you have to visit at least once. And once is never enough. Hay is a very small, pretty town just across the Herefordshire border, in Powys, Mid-Wales.
The area is very rural and very pretty, but what makes Hay remarkable is that it is stuffed full of 2nd-hand bookshops. Some people know it for its annual book festival, but I've never been to that. Over the many years that I've been collecting Ladybird Books, I've visited many times.
There are specialist children's bookshops and general shops - and once upon a time it was possible to find a bargain or a rare book in either. For example,I bought a DJ copy of Jeremy's Day in the Country for £5.00 in a specialist children's bookshop a few years ago and a proof-copy of a history book for 50p in another.
I was back in Hay last week, and it was still a lovely place to be in the sunshine of a mellow Autumn. Despite the doom and gloom in the bookshop world, Hay seems to be flourishing still - although the antiques shops that used to be well-represented in Hay seem to be finding times harder.
But Ladybird bargains? No longer easy-pickings. The specialist bookshops are still there, with well-stocked shelves. But the most popular books (such as the original Well Loved Tales 606d books) are conspicuously absent, and the prices have caught up too.
In this challenging climate, there's a new kid on the block. A small shop has opened near the centre of town called 'Barnabee Books'. And this small cave of a shop is planning on being niche indeed - advertising just Obervers and Ladybird Books for sale.
The shop looked brand new - it's not yet on the list of bookshops in town - but if you're just starting your collection or are prepared to spend a bit of money to fast-track your way through the series, you might want to pay a visit.