Having stumbled upon their website not too long ago, I took a trip to Astley Book Farm in Warwickshire on Friday afternoon. It claims to be the largest second-hand bookshop in the Midlands and it was easy to see why.
Following a short drive up the M6 I arrived at the farm tucked away in the countryside and was surprised to find the car park nearly full. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who had decided to go on an adventure in the glorious spring sunshine. With its inviting welcome message on the front door and accompanying sign stating “On this site on Sept 5 1782 nothing happened” I knew that I was going to enjoy my time there.
I first headed to the Ten Bob Barn, a comparatively small outbuilding where every book was priced at 50p. The books are shelved in no particular order and so it was a case of scanning the spines to see if there was anything of interest. Now whilst the barn is indeed smaller than the main building it still holds a large quantity of books and so I spent quite a while working my way through it all. In the end nothing really grabbed my attention, although I did find an ARC of Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan which made me smile as it’s one of my favourites.
Next up was the main barn. You know that feeling when you enter a bookshop, the one where you tingle in anticipation of the wonders that you’ll find? Well imagine walking in to be presented with a cash register area to your left that’s got so many stacks of books on the desk that you can barely see the person manning the till, and to your right is a seemingly never-ending corridor crammed full of shelves waiting for you to search. Suffice to say I felt just a bit excited at what laid ahead of me.
I decided that it would make sense to begin at the end and work my way back to the entrance. Off I went past the new arrivals, the history and art racks, the general fiction aisles and the sci-fi section before I spotted the end of the building. Or so I thought, as it then extended to the left where the remainder of the non-fiction books were shelved. Eventually I made it to the furthest reaches of the barn known as “The Snug”, where amongst the biographies and travel books were two comfortable-looking sofas and a small wood-burner. I strongly suspect that during the winter months it’s a battle to snag a seat there. As nice as the snug was I didn’t hang about as I had some serious browsing to do.
I rarely read non-fiction and so I somewhat skipped over the entire area but it was clear that there were books covering every subject you could possibly have an interest in. The first section that I stopped to look at properly was their collection of sci-fi and fantasy books. With easily over one hundred shelves (a lot of which had a second row of books behind the first) I was spoiled for choice. I spotted the works of many familiar authors as well as a whole host of unknown ones. One set of books that caught my eye in particular was the white cover/red-edged pages edition of the Twilight series. They were in pretty good condition and priced at £2.75 each (the standard price for adult fiction paperbacks in the barn) so I was very tempted to buy them purely for aesthetic reasons. In the end reason won out as I’m happy with owning the original editions but they’d make a great purchase for any fan of the series. Being a lover of Doctor Who I was happy to see that there were a few shelves dedicated to the programme (there were even more shelves for the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars). Sadly there weren’t any books that I wanted to add to my to collection this time but it’s good to know that they receive enough in quantity and regularity to warrant an allocated spot.
I then moved on to the rest of the fiction books which were shelved alphabetically by author surname. Given the vastness of the area it’ll come as no surprise that this was a mammoth task. Whilst there were a few authors/books that I was specifically looking out for, I was content to scan every shelf to see if anything called out to me. From classics to reasonably recent releases I’m sure that any reader would find at least one book that they wanted, as demonstrated by every person I met in the barn carrying a handful of books (some even had baskets to help manage the load).
Up a short flight of stairs was the Children’s Hayloft, a fairly small mezzanine that still managed to hold a ridiculous number of books for younger readers. As followers of my blog will know I read a lot of YA fiction and so I was on the look-out for anything of the sort dotted between everything else. Whilst I wasn’t expecting to find items from my wishlist as they’re mostly newish releases I thought there was a good chance there’d be something of interest, and there were indeed a number of books/authors that have been popular in the last five years or so. I would say though that the majority of books were aimed at children under 12.
The final areas I had a look around were the new arrivals, special edition books and a little nook full of stunning hardbacks from The Folio Society. If I were fortunate enough to have space for a library (similarly the money to be able to afford to kit it out) then I would definitely have bought a fair few items.
Finally I had made it back to the entrance and so I paid for my purchases (you’ll have to wait for my book haul post at the end of the month to see what I got) before heading to the coffee shop. Whilst I sat inside there was a pretty courtyard with a number of tables at which to enjoy refreshments in the sunshine. I’d read online before my visit that their cakes came in generous portions and they weren’t lying. As well as getting a pot of tea I treated myself to a slice of black forest gateau. I have to admit I wasn’t 100% sure I’d get through it all but after the first bite I knew that I was prepared to put the time and effort into finishing it off. That was some seriously scrummy cake (the cookie dough cheesecake also looked mouth-wateringly delicious). There were three women sat on the table opposite who had afternoon tea and I was suitably impressed at the amount of food that came with it. My mum and I both love going out for afternoon tea and it’s likely that we’ll give theirs a go in the future.
So there you have it. One girl and 75,000 books made for a lovely afternoon and I’ll definitely be going back.