This blog has been running for several years now, meaning you can name pretty much any county and I'll know of a bookshop worth visiting. It's a niche area to be an expert in, but it does mean a random diversion through anywhere can be vastly improved by a stop at X, Y and/or Z independent bookshop. Also, given some people collect traffic cones as a hobby, I reckon my interest isn't all that odd. But there are gaps in my knowledge.
Last weekend saw me take a long-anticipated trip to Telford, where a friend was getting married. Despite my having almost two years' notice, I somehow managed to forget to book a hotel until just three weeks before the big day. Meaning I also had no idea where the hotel was in relation to either the wedding or any potential bookshopping activity.
For once, the internet helped me out perfectly, reassuring me I was staying in the correct county and – more importantly – surprising me with the introduction of a new-to-me bookshop.
Every now and then I do stumble across a previously unknown-to-me bookshop, but it's an increasingly rare occurrence, so to have accidentally booked my boyfriend and I into a hotel just five minutes' walk from both a bookshop and a bridge (another thing I'm quite fond of) was a welcome surprise.
The Ironbridge Bookshop is found approximately a hop, skip and a jump from the bridge it's named after, an enviable location in what turned out to be a lovely village. Knowing the history of Ironbridge and its popularity with visitors I'd expected the area to be ever so slightly tacky to appeal to tourists. Instead we were met with a lovely selection of shops that are admittedly probably slightly more geared to visitors than your average village, but were also high enough quality to keep our attention and ensure that when we spent money, we spent it well.
The bookshop was obviously my highlight when it came to money-spending, and within about five seconds I knew what area of shelving I was buying from. It is stocked with good quality secondhand books to tempt all tastes, but walk up a short flight of stairs to the till and children's area and you also find a wall of orange Penguins (and associated other colours).
I've seen early Penguins in bookshops before, but this is the first time I've seen so many and so brightly presented and it was a wonderful treat to discover when we walked in wearing our wedding guest finery during a break in the proceedings. I quickly began investigating the selection, passing up on a few titles I've long wanted to read in favour of Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell because before I knew it I'd read a page and a half while stood in the shop.
During our brief visit not long before closing time we could see it was a popular place, with customers popping in to shop and chat. I'd hoped to meet the bookseller responsible for Twitter, who had tweeted with me about the area a week or two previously, but as is often the case when arriving at places unannounced, I'd turned up when she was on holiday. That didn't matter though, I still enjoyed a friendly chat with the bookseller I did meet.
Bookshop found and book bought it was time to think about returning to my friend's wedding, via the bridge for a selfie first...
The Ironbridge Bookshop
5 The Square, Ironbridge,
Telford, Shropshire, TF8 7AQ
Tel: 01952 432273