C. Arden, Bookseller

We made the most of yesterday’s unexpected heatwave by taking a trip deep into the Welsh countryside – to buy books…

Hay-On-Wye is small market town in Powys, with a population of fewer than 1,900 inhabitants, but with over thirty second-hand bookshops. It is the UK’s self-styled ‘Town of Books’, and draws visitors from all over the country (especially during its week-long annual Literary Festival). It was quiet and sleepy when we visited yesterday, though, and we spent a blissful day toddling among the books and eating our picnic by the river.

Hay-on-Wye Bookshops

There are all kinds of bookshops in Hay: antiques and collectables, music, gardening, poetry, even a crime and horror fiction bookshop (Murder and Mayhem). There are ‘honesty’ bookstands (such as those in the grounds of Hay Castle) with coin slots through which scrupulous buyers place their payment. There are tiny bookshops, in which tomes are crammed into every nook and cranny, and then there is Booth’s – Europe’s largest second-hand bookshop. We took our time visiting them all, rummaging through sale bins and gingerly inspecting hundred-year-old first editions. We came away satisfied and contented, with just five books between us (space and money being at a premium…)

Hand-dyed Spinning Wool

In a serendipitous stroke of fortune I managed to stumble into a wool shop, nestled into an alleyway that we had wandered into. The Wool and Willow Gallery is a small gallery for the works of local artists, and a shop that sells a wonderful range of yarns and wool. There was some lovely Maggie Oliver handspun silk yarn, some hand-dyed Bowmont and mohair by Jenny Cook, and a good range of Naturals yarn from several wool breeds. The shop also sold some butter-soft alpaca for spinning, but I had spent my budget already, so I had to leave it behind. I came away with just a couple of lengths of BFL and Shetland wool for spinning, hand-dyed by Carole Webb. I emerged blinking into the sunlight, wondering what the chances were of finding a wool shop in a book town, only to see right in front of me the lovely Bedecked. (Another half-hour of yarn fondling ensued). I will need to budget more generously next time I come to Hay!

We had a wonderfully lazy day filled with browsing, wandering and eating. The British summer may have come and gone, but at least we made the most of this weekend.