Sunday, 22 June 2014

Wild paddling

Spending a short break in the Lake District enabled me to engage in a little Wild Paddling, in solidarity with the Wild Swimmers who seemed all over the place. But more importantly it enabled me to visit Fred Holdsworth Bookshop in Ambleside for the first time in twenty years and Sam Read Bookseller in Grasmere for the first time ever.
Fred's shop has been going for 50+ years though Fred himself retired a few years back. I'd remembered it as being more political, more alternative and more literary than it is now, but there are reasons. At one time there were 500 teacher training students in the small town, plus staff, and their presence - and those of quite a few other alternative types drove the bookshop. Nowadays the stock is orientated more towards tourists. Still a shop worth visiting - well, I was a tourist - but it feels like the last few years have been a struggle.
Holdsworth's longevity is nothing compared to that of Sam Read, which opened in 1887. The current owner has been there fourteen years and while Grasmere had the feel of a theme park, the bookshop lifted my heart a bit as their walking book display was led by Rebecca Solnit and a cohort of other important and thoughtful walking writers. There was depth there.
But like all the outposts of bookselling, the hours are long. Both shops are open seven days a week and while the weather this week has been beautiful in the Lakes, I suspect there are long periods of rain outside and ennui at the counter.
I'd definitely visit both shops again but a visit in person is better, neither have spectacular websites.

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