Thursday 18 September 2014

Out of hours bookshopping fun

I've spent most of my life visiting relatives on one particular road in Greater Manchester. The visits are generally the same. I'll realise I'm in the area, make a detour, pop round for a half hour hello and then be on my way.

As the area's not far from the M60 I'll generally whizz in and out again, barely noticing anything beyond my destination and the florist where I stop to buy a friendly bunch of flowers. Until now. Because this time when I found myself headed to Barlow Moor Road I decided to take a break from my journey to explore and – despite the fact I ended up visiting at around 5pm on a Sunday – I hit gold.

At least, I hit gold once I finally worked out where Didsbury Village Bookshop was hidden, out of sight from the road in a back room behind a delightful restaurant/cafe called The Art of Tea. Which, when you think about it, is the perfect place to hide a bookshop - doesn't everyone love settling down with a cuppa and a good book?

Wandering between the tables of the busy eatery, a doorway at the back of the room beckons readers down a few steps to the secondhand bookshop and, further back, picture framer. Nothing can prepare you for the size of the bookshop that awaits. Possibly larger than the cafe it hides behind, rows of neatly stacked shelves invite you to dawdle and browse.

Which is exactly what I did.

As you'd expect, all the usual suspects of genre are found among the shelves, but if I had to name a specialist subject on this visit it was the classics. Shelved in alphabetical order but also grouped according to publisher, these make a beautiful collection surrounding the entrance and captured my attention so completely I could've happily confined my visit to the first few feet of bookshop.

Venturing further in, I found more classics, non-fiction, and a wonderful array of general fiction with many complete collections of authors' works you'd only usually expect to find in a well-stocked new bookshop. And so I became overwhelmed with possible purchases.

Taking my time to scan a few lines of each I was soon relaxed against a bookshelf, absorbed by my reading and enjoying the buzz of chatter and tempting food smells wafting in from the cafe. Both were at just the right level to add to the atmosphere, rather than disturb it, meaning I spent rather longer than anticipated enjoying my leisurely browsing before choosing Pure by Andrew Miller.

Having arrived in the bookshop at an odd time of day I was sorry but not unsurprised to discover I'd missed the owner, but the man minding the shop was very friendly and welcoming and – as I mentioned earlier – this is an area I visit often, so I'll be sure to make a return visit at a hopefully more appropriate time of day.

For now, it was good to take a break from my plans and relax in friendly, welcoming surroundings. Next time it'll be like returning to see a good friend.

Didsbury Village Bookshop,
Inside The Art of Tea,
47 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6TW
Tel: 0161 4380211


  1. What a joy it is to stumble on a bookshop like that! I can see your visits to relatives becoming more frequent, but perhaps shorter as the time is eaten up in the bookshop.

    You'll have to go back for tea next time - maybe there is a sub-blog in this about combining book shopping and tea.

    And great choice of book - the Bookshop Band wrote two of their early songs about it, and still a couple of thier best I think.

    1. Hi Susanne,
      Everything you say is right! Especially returning for tea. I desperately wanted to stay and enjoy the cafe during this visit but spent so long enjoying the bookshop I knew I couldn't justify delaying my drive home any longer.
      Will go and investigate those Bookshop Band songs as soon as I've read...


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