Bookish town

Today, 7th March 2019, is World Book Day in the UK and Ireland: “The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.”

This post has a twofold purpose: to mark World Book Day and, as part of Dewithon — the Wales Readathon — to celebrate the contribution of Book-ish bookshop in Crickhowell‘s High Street to the literary life of Wales. As a resident I’m quite happy to blow the trumpet and bang the drum for this small market town!

For a settlement of a little over 2000 inhabitants (2011 figures) Crickhowell punches above its weight. In the Great British High Street Awards 2018 not only was it Champion Award Winner for Wales but received the supreme accolade of being judged the UK’s Best High Street. On top of that, the enterprising and enthusiastic Emma Corfield-Walters — proprietor of Book-ish — was announced as High Street Hero for Wales.

Spot the award

One of the town’s draws is the number of independent businesses on the High Street and immediate vicinity. When one of its centrally-placed pubs closed a concerted effort was made to stop plans by a national retail chain to turn it into a convenience store competing with small local independents.

After local investment and a comprehensive restoration the successfully completed project was officially opened by the Prince of Wales.

Waiting for the Prince of Wales, July 2018

So, in a short stretch of what was the medieval market Street and adjacent to it there is now a diverse range of shops and businesses: two butchers and a baker (no candlestick maker but an aromatherapy outlet); three remaining pubs (two of which were coaching inns) with a couple more further out; at least seven cafés (one attached to the bookshop, another at the purpose-built information centre, a third in the former courthouse, a fourth specialising in vegan food, a fifth in the bakery, a sixth in a nearby courtyard and one proclaiming itself shabby chic vintage).

Add to that three hairdressers; two art galleries, two charity shops and two clothes shops (bijou or boutique? you be the judge); a labyrinthine hardware shop, and a department store (“country and lifestyle clothing”); plus an antique shop and a vintage goods shop (there is a difference, y’know).

And there’s more, here and nearby: a bike repair shop, equine supplies, a florist, a garage, general stores, a family grocery, a newsagent, an off-licence, an optometrist, a shop for walkers exploring the national park and Wales’ first zero-waste shop are also all independent retail premises in the town. Then there are the less visible services like accountants, solicitors, and the local offices of two estate agents based in the area.

Hungry? There’s a chippie, a Chinese takeaway and an Indian restaurant all within walking distance of the High Street. Plus B&Bs and country hotels if you want to stay. The Post Office is run as an independent business though the pharmacy is part of a national chain and the petrol station is a concession. Sadly both the major bank branches in the town have closed in the last three years.

At a time when high streets across Britain are struggling to survive, with empty premises proliferating, Crickhowell is one of a small number of towns that understand the value of independent local businesses in providing a pleasurable shopping experience to contrast with the identikit high streets that currently blight many urban areas.

It’s also one of many places around the world that have subscribed to the Totally Locally initiative which encourages people to think local and shop local first.

Have I mentioned the festivals run throughout the year here? In common with many communities there are events dedicated to walking, classical music (the 25th festival takes placeover the early May holiday weekend), contemporary folk (the famous Green Man Festival every August), plus open garden and open studio weekends. And let’s not of course forget the autumn Crickhowell literary festival which, though not as big or as famous as that of Hay-on-Wye on the other side of the Black Mountains, is nevertheless distinctive, select and intimate.

Double rainbow over Crickhowell church

And now back to World Book Day: today a number of titles by a range of well-known authors are being made available at £1.00 (or the equivalent in euros, or in exchange for a voucher) for young readers in the UK and Ireland. No doubt most if not all will be stocked in Book-ish’s children’s section, but wherever they’re offered one hopes that tomorrow’s adult readers will have their younger minds inspired today.

Children’s section, Book-ish
A corner of Book-ish
Book-ish van and bookshop

Crickhowell in the snow

29 thoughts on “Bookish town

        1. Welsh is surprisingly phonetic once you know the rules—‘f’ is ‘v’, ‘w’ is ‘oo’, ‘dd’ is ‘th’ (‘th’ is also ‘th’), ‘y’ is ‘uh’ (but sometimes ‘ee’) and ‘u’ is usually ‘ee’. See? Simple.

          (By the way, I think you may be confusing Welsh with Irish… 😁)

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and less of the ‘ignorant Colonial’, if you please! Speaking as someone who still has occasional mishaps with Welsh place-names, I’d definitely struggle with pronouncing many Native Australian and Maori places if I ever got as far as the antipodes!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Most people used to pass through it, Sue as we often did in the 90s with friends (en route to walking in the Beacons) or returning from England to Pembrokeshire on a more scenic route! I wonder how much has changed from when you knew it? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Pingback: Wales Readathon 2019 – Book Jotter

  2. I’ll definitely remember this place and when I visit UK (and if I won’t need a visa or something – who knows what Brexit will ultimately mean?) I’ll definitely travel to Crickhowell 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you find yourself inundated with visits from blogging pals, Chris, it’ll be your own fault for being such an excellent promoter. Crickhowell sounds like a cultural haven — lucky you, to have decided to settle there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And I may be another visitor, Chris; I’m fired up to revisit Wales and this little town sounds idyllic and is an area of the country that I’ve never seen. You may end up with a plaque of your own – as ambassador for Crickhowell!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! I’d be a rubbish ambassador in person, too introvert for my own good! But I hope you do get round to visiting this part of Wales, not as rugged as parts of Cornwall, I know, but beautiful and wild: as I look out the kitchen window the tail end of Storm Gareth has thrown up a rainbow across the valley, framing the church steeple even as the distant hills are obscured by the wind-buffeted rain clouds.


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