Your bookshops #21, The Hours

On 8th October, I had the pleasure of taking part in Radio 4's Saturday Live show, talking about my love of bookshops. During the show, lots of listeners were kind enough to get in touch, responding to my comments and sharing the love for their own local bookshop.

One of those people was Kate, who responded to a comment I made about Book-ish with the following message: "Just down the road from that lovely bookshop in Crickhowell is my favourite bookshop in all the world: The Hours Cafe & Bookshop in Brecon, Powys and it's their 6th birthday today!" As a result I wrote back and asked Kate to tell us all more...

The Hours Cafe & Bookshop
15 Ship Street, Brecon, Powys, LD3 9AD, Wales
Tel: 01874 622800 @TheHoursBrecon
Published: 30th October 2016

Well it's that time of year again – flu jab time! To reward ourselves for submitting to the needle my husband, Ray, and I popped into our local cafe and independent bookshop, The Hours, afterwards for tea and cake. Not that we really needed an excuse.

We are so lucky here in Brecon, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, to have the listed, wonky, little green bookshop, with its flagstone floors and wooden beams, on Ship Street. When we moved here, just over three years ago, we asked our estate agent to recommend a good place for lunch while we waited for the moving vans to arrive. The Hours was the first on the list.

After partaking of the most wonderful homemade soup ever, together with a delicious sandwich, we were devoted patrons for life. We became very regular visitors over the next few weeks as we had problems getting our phone and broadband installed, and The Hours could offer us food, shelter, free Wi-Fi and – books! As a result we got to know Leigh and Nicky, the lovely ladies who own and run this unique bookshop-cafe quite well.

However, Leigh and Nicky are not just the owners. Nicky cooks all the food herself and prepares the delicious snacks, soups, quiches and sandwiches, from locally sourced ingredients, in the tiniest kitchen you have ever seen. Leigh handpicks and displays the diverse, eclectic, discerning and constantly changing book stock that includes classics, contemporary fiction, poetry, art, children’s books, local interest and local authors. Hence my husband's purchase on this visit – The Welsh Warrior through the Ages by Jonathan Morgan, illustrated by Robert Macdonald, both local residents. Although I confess I did not purchase a book on this visit, I have done so on many occasions in the last three years – for myself, for my grandchildren and as gifts for friends and relatives. If there is a book that you want/need, just ask Leigh and she will leave no stone unturned until she has found and ordered it for you.

As if this was not enough the ladies are also part of the thriving artistic and cultural community in Brecon. They host events for the annual Brecon Fringe, Women's Arts Week and Baroque festivals, poetry readings, author events, book groups, supper clubs and music nights. They provide a unique venue for meetings, celebrations and all other manner of get-togethers, as well as many other individual events. They have also taken to the stage to participate in a rock opera written by a local musician! The upstairs gallery offers gifts, a small selection of used books and hosts exhibitions of new work by established and emerging Welsh and Wales-based artists on a monthly basis.

To sum up then: The Hours is a meeting place, a haven, and a cultural hub. But it is more than the sum of its parts. A visit there is like spending time with friends; indeed I am proud to call Leigh and Nicky my friends.

For a long time now I've wanted to visit The Hours, so I'm particularly grateful to Kate for describing this bookshop, which sounds even more welcoming than I'd imagined.

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