Bookshop Visit: Malvern Book Co-op. ‘There is music in the air…’

Over New Year, we went down to Worcestershire to see family and friends.  I love Edinburgh but I miss England sometimes – the rain, the hedgerows, the accents – and every so often I do hanker after returning.  We had a lovely week though, and spent one of our days on an outing to Malvern.  The title of this post is from a quotation by Edward Elgar, long-time Malvern resident and a music teacher at my Alma Mater (though many years before I was a pupil there!). The Malvern hills were his inspiration – Nimrod is one of my favourite pieces and always makes me think of home.

I knew there was a new bookshop in Malvern although it took a little finding.  Having passed the turning once we ended up driving out of town looking for somewhere to turn round and reached Little Malvern where there’s a wonderful view to the east where you can see across Worcestershire and the valley of the river Severn.  If we ever do move back south I’d love to have that view from my desk and to be able to watch the weather changing before me.  I’d never get any work done though so perhaps my current view of some rather nasty woodchip (this room is still to be decorated) is preferable.

On our second pass, we saw the bookshop and pulled in. After the shocking price of parking in Edinburgh we were quite disproportionately chuffed by free parking – clearly our aspirations are small.  While I wandered into a couple of junk shops, Malcolm waited patiently with the dog although when I met him he seemed quite taken with Brays – a wonderfully old-fashioned looking clothes shop catering, as he put it, to the ‘gentleman farmer of a certain age’.

Just past Brays, up a tiny, precipitous, street is Malvern Book Co-operative – a gem of a community run bookshop and cafe.  It was set up last year when the town’s previous bookshop, Beacon Books, closed when its owners retired.  To raise funds to set up a new shop, shares were sold and there are now five founder members and 50 ‘consumer members’.  I’m not quite sure of the difference but I imagine that the latter have less say in how the bookshop is run and the former have relevant skills in managing the shop.  I can imagine that trying to run a meeting and make decisions where over fifty people want to have their say could be exhausting but I think it’s a great idea and, most importantly, it keeps a bookshop in the town.

The shop has a warm, welcoming feel and the manager – whose name I didn’t catch – previously worked at Beacon Books so has masses of experience and should ensure that the Co-op succeeds. Stock is a tad limited in volume but interesting and with a wide range of local titles.  I bought a copy of The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey, a non-fic title looking at the mystery surrounding the death of 9th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle and the subsequent locking up and abandoning of his rooms for the next 60 years.  I’ve only had time to skim the first couple of chapters so far but it looks fascinating.

We also had lunch at a lovely pub just off the Malvern Road, The Swan at Newland.  Fantastic food and our (massive but well-behaved) dog was very welcome.  I did find the landlord’s comments re badly-behaved children and unreasonably complaining customers quite amusing. Unlike one of the Trip Advisor commenters, I realised he was being very tongue-in-cheek and I wouldn’t hesitate to take children there.  Maybe that person has children who tend to annoy other people in restaurants and they’re a little paranoid about that? The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly and it was great to visit one of the country pubs that England has so many of and which are harder to find her in Scotland.

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