For those of us who would list “visiting bookshops” as one of our hobbies, the last few years have been difficult. Even when restrictions have eased, and we may have felt confident to venture out, not all of us have been able to get into bookshops owing to mobility problems and challenging access. In this series I celebrate the shops that I can actually enter and get round on Morgan, my trusty powerchair.
Today I am featuring a shop within a shop – a garden centre at RHS Harlow Carr. We actually first discovered it in 2020, when meeting in the gardens for a legal, socially distanced picnic with our adult offspring who we had not seen for months. Venturing into the garden centre I expected the usual – piles of gardening books, maybe a few puzzle books, the usual thing. I entered via the Gardening section, only to discover that the area was in fact a small but well stocked bookshop, with new fiction and non fiction, an older collection of fiction with many interesting titles, biography, history and even specific crime fiction. After months of ordering books on the phone and online it was lovely to actually be able to handle and choose books in real life! As you can see from the photos, the books are well organised in a relatively spacious designated area so my more recent trip was very enjoyable. There are now several entrances to the building, all on the flat, – there is a slope at one side of the bookshop which is said not to be wheelchair friendly – I could manage it but it is mentioned in the accessibility statement.I am not sure who is in charge of book buying, but there is an excellent selection available whenever I visit. Thank you Harlow Carr!
One of my favourite book shops since I was eighteen is Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge. Now it is actually part of the Blackwells group, but I think it retains much of the flavour of an independent shop. It is accessible for Morgan, my trusty powerchair, thanks to a wide automatic doorway and a smaller one down a side entrance. Inside the shop itself there are several levels which can be accessed via small lifts which fortunately work well. The front section, at least at this time of year, is devoted to new books and a good selection of older books chosen by the booksellers. The fiction section is big, and includes books from small publishers such as Slightly Foxed. My favourite department is Crime. Richard has been there for over forty years, and the selection of books goes far beyond contemporary crime. There is an incredible choice of literary crime, “cosy” crime and Golden Age Detection. There is a full set of British Library Crime Classics, as well as more obscure reprints of novels of the mid twentieth century which Richard has discovered and promoted. Altogether it is possible to spend a lot of money there…All the staff are friendly and helpful, and I have spent many hours there whenever I have been able to get to Cambridge.
Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – Oxfam Bookshop, Cambridge
One of the bookshops that I managed to get into during our recent visit to Cambridge with Morgan, my trusty powerchair, was the Oxfam bookshop. A wide doorway with no step, and an impressive ramp meant that I could enter easily and get around to see the books. Being early December, there were a few extra boxes of wrapping paper around but that all added to the festive atmosphere! We also managed to donate some books – they were glad it was only one big bag at the moment!
There are a surprising number of specialist Oxfam bookshops in Britain, and they always have a good selection ranging from paperback fiction to very specialist titles and some collectable editions which are priced accordingly. Most are accessible, even if they are small shops, though they tend to be crowded! On one famous occasion they saved Peter’s bacon on Christmas Eve when he spotted a Folio edition set of Dorothy L. Sayers best novels in a cabinet – an excellent present which I really enjoyed reading! A quick check online produced a list of the shops here https://www.localstore.co.uk/stores/82699/oxfam-books/ I cannot check its accuracy but it provides a start! The fact that most of the staff are volunteers means that they are usually cheerful and helpful. It is a great place for ex librarians (hello Diane!).
Of course if you are struggling to get out, you can always look online at https://onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/ I built up quite a collection of books by a particular author from this site.
Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – The Tree House Bookshop
A real find in Kenilworth was The Tree House Bookshop. It was accessible for Morgan, my trusty powerchair, even though apparently one of the doors was giving some problems. This cosy shop, though accessible inside, has an actual treehouse inside – though I did not take the opportunity to climb inside! It sells second – hand books on a not for profit basis, with donations of stock welcomed. This means that the prices are low even for special books, and are affordable for all. They are well ordered (fiction by authors alphabetically etc) and there was even a small selection of Virago green books. The non fiction section was also well arranged, and I could navigate between the shelves pretty well (for a busy second hand shop anyway!). Its tagline is “Bringing people together through the arts” and it is a music venue in normal times. Profits are ploughed back into the shop, and a local, national and international charity supported. It came over a friendly shop with a lot of stock and a real community feel.
The Bookshop on the Green, 27 Sycamore Road, Bournville B30 2AA
Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – The Bookshop on the Green, Bournville.
We had made about four attempts to visit this bookshop, and had been stopped by sudden work commitments, domestic emergencies and even the main road being blocked! So, although we had been kindly offered a tour by Liz (thanks) we had to go it alone before there was another sudden diversion in every sense! We were so glad we did! As we entered the flat, wide doorway we were welcomed by beautiful book displays for adults and children, as a family were making choices of picture books and other goodies. I could easily get around the books on Morgan, my trusty powerchair, and there was a very welcoming atmosphere. Sarah (pictured above) explained that the Bournville Hub was a social concern that for various reasons had become focused on the bookshop over the last two difficult years, and had come to be about far more selling books (which they were doing extremely well!) There are events and workshops available, including a series with author Mike Gayle being Reader-in-Residence, with more details on the website https://www.bournvillehub.com/
The contact details are shown as
The Bookshop on the Green, on the ground floor, is open 9am-4pm Wednesday- Saturdays and from 12 noon-4pm on Sundays. Online orders can be made by email: email@example.com. Or for home delivery you can visit our online shop via https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/t…
The shop was also at the centre of the Bournville Bookfest, a series of events for children in September. This is obviously a bookshop in the heart of its community, and I was so pleased to visit an accessible, friendly and lively shop!