I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son.
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Published June 11th 2017
Bookbarn bound to please the eyes and the wallet
Bookbarn has over a million books for sale. Yes. A million. Rows and rows of books: thin, broad, old , new, and in almost every genre that could be classified. Housed within cavernous barn buildings in the small village of Hallatrow, this bookworm's paradise is an astonishing place to visit. A mere 9.8 miles from Bath and 11 miles from Bristol also makes it very accessible. With a large, free carpark right outside it is the perfect place to get lost in on a Saturday or Sunday, or any other day ending with a 'Y'.
There must be close to a hundred sections amongst the shelves, many of which are peppered with quirky, comfy velour armchairs to hunker down in. Genres are carefully advertised on blackboard style labels, but there are lovely niches called things like 'broken but loved' or 'unsorted arty' that beckon a chance discovery. So abundant are the books that there are whole walls of Penguin and Puffin editions and there are rarely duplicates. I've found so many beautiful and unusual books there and perhaps this is the most wonderful thing about the barn. You could, and probably would find anything.
If I have made the place sound somewhat chaotic, then I apologise. It is anything but. The reception area has friendly staff who willingly search their databases for titles, and there are always several staff members on hand to aid searches. Only a quarter of the barn is accessible to the public, and visitors sometimes get tantalising glimpses of four-tiered shelves in adjacent rooms. Despite being a hive of activity it is always quiet there, with the only noises being peoples shuffling feet and the groaning handles of book baskets as they get slowly filled.
Books aren't the be all and end all though. Why not round off a booksearch with a visit to the 'Full Stop Cafe' situated just behind the reception counters? It is a vegetarian cafe serving healthy and tasty snacks and lunches and a variety of hot and cold drinks. Its also a great place to have a sit down and a chat, away from the almost reverential quietness of the shelves. In Winter they have a wood-burning stove near to the quirky cafe tables and chairs, and offer poetry reading circles in the evenings. The toilet facilities are clean and child-friendly, and even have crates of 45's and LP's to peruse if there is a queue.
The barn is perfectly set up for little folk and families with young children. Tucked cosily behind the cafe is a safe and attractive children's area full of sofas, cuddly toys, tables and chairs and (you guessed it) books. The walls of this play and reading area are floor to ceiling bookshelves containing everything from retro annuals to poetry collections for kids. It adds a lovely buzz to the place, and even a meeting place for various family members to return to after returning from book missions. I call the front section 'the airlock' because once past there, the adventure begins, and who knows what a person may return holding?
The Bookbarn never fails to surprise and satisfy me. Whether looking for eighties action and adventure bestsellers, obscure children's literature from the 1950's, gardening books or anything else, there is always something to find. I am often amazed by the amount of modern literature that there is, and at £1 per book, there are phenomenal bargains to be had. Unless shopping in the rare section, every book in the place is £1, regardless of age, size or print type. It is a phenomenal place. Don't be put off by the austere and slightly Industrial-looking exterior of the barn, because wonders lie within. What's that phrase again? Oh yes, never judge a bookbarn by its cover.
When:Mondays to Saturdays 10 - 6 Café 10 - 5 with hot food 10 - 4. Sundays 11 - 5 Café 11 - 4 with hot food 11 - 3 Bank Holidays 11 - 5 Café 11 - 4 with hot food 11 - 3 We are closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and Easter