The town of books

I have had the best day. Racing around trying to fit in as many bookstores as possible was not the least bit stressful and I ended up seeing 16 bookshops, counting the one I visited yesterday afternoon. And that’s not even all the bookshops in Hay-on-Wye!! The weather wasn’t sunny, but it held off the rain until the last bookshop of my day and even then, it was very light. We had massive hot chocolates, copious amounts of tea, and stopped for lunch at The Granary café, where I had an amazing BLT. Aside from the bookshops, I popped my head into a few gift-y type places, but really, I was here for the books, and it was the bookshops that I enjoyed best. I went well over budget, and will very probably have to mail my books home because of limited luggage space, but I regret nothing. I have bought a couple of Peter Pans for my collection, and a few other bits and pieces, including some presents for people (yes, you’re getting a book, Sean, suffer in your jocks), and also went to The Fudge Shop and bought Baileys fudge because yum. I have had so many conversations with locals today, all really lovely booksellers and book buyers. One little old man sat down next to me and introduced me to his Jack Russell who has been to the same bookshop 6 days a week for most of her life. Her name was Lucy and he let me pat her and take pictures of her while we chatted. I even went into The King of Hay bookshop, which is named after Richard Booth who initiated the whole ‘booktown’ concept and proclaimed himself king of the kingdom of Hay. He wrote a great autobiography, which I’ll have to buy when I have the funds.

We got home and unpacked our purchases. We’ve had dinner and are about to attempt to repack everything including stuffing in our new books because we leave Hay-on-Wye early tomorrow and travel to the Cotswolds. Wish me luck!

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Ludlow and Tenbury Wells and HAY-ON-WYE

 

 

This morning we woke up relatively early, so we went for a walk down to the Uffington Church and behind, over paddocks and through turnstiles and down little country lanes along the river. I Skyped Sean before we left, and then we headed down to Ludlow, a medieval market village which has more listed buildings per head of population than any other town in England. Ludlow is particularly famous for it’s medieval castle, which housed famous residents like Catherine of Aragon and her first husband, Prince Arthur. It is also where Arthur died, and an old man at St Laurence’s church today told me he thought Henry VII had sent Arthur to Ludlow to finish him off. He knew it was cold and wet and Arthur had a sickly constitution, so it’s an interesting theory. Ludlow Castle also played host to Mary Tudor (Catherine’s daughter) and Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, the famed Princes in the Tower. It is a ruin similar to Conwy, but is a little more intact. It has only just been reopened after the winter, and a pigeon had made it’s nest right next to one of the staircases and gave us major stinkeye when we walked past it’s eggs. Hopefully they can arrange to have the nest moved, because it’s going to get accidentally stepped on otherwise. We also headed into the Tudor apartment bit and looked up to find ourselves surrounded by birds glaring at us.
Afterwards we walked through the Ludlow market and I had a quick squiz in St Laurence’s Church, which has a stained glass window depicting a number of figures associated with Ludlow including Edward V, Edward VI and Prince Arthur. Then we stopped for lunch in a lovely little sandwich shop with a little Tudor sitting room upstairs.

 

 

 

 

 

St Laurence’s

 

St Laurence’s

 

Tudor sandwiches!

Then we drove to the nearby town of
Tenbury Wells, which has some really unusual Pump Rooms built around a well, which is how the town got it’s name. The well was built after a mineral water spring was discovered in a farmer’s paddock. It brought lots of money to the town, because people would pay to drink and bathe in the water which was supposed to be good for ailments. It sounded like pretty horrid stuff – it contained sulphur and was twice as salty as seawater – but people paid a lot of money for the privilege of using it. The most lovely woman was just locking the place up when we arrived, but she was delighted to see us and took us on a tour of the place giving us a lot of history and explanation. She made us sign the guestbook when she found out we were from Australia and insisted on us taking lots of photos. The Pump Rooms look a bit Seuss-ish. The style is often described as Chinese-Gothic. Tenbury Wells is also famous for growing hops and cider apples. Queen Victoria visited and referred to the town as ‘my little town in the orchard’. I tried to find a local cider to sample, but had no luck so I bought some English cider anyway to toast the place.
The fountain

 

Pump Rooms

 

The well

 

Pump Rooms

 

Then we jumped back in the car and as we drove, we saw some actual gypsies and their horses and caravans (forgive the political incorrectness. Do I say gypsies, Irish travellers or something else?). Then it was on to Hay-on-Wye! We are in a gorgeous little 2-bedroom cottage for 2 nights, with neck-breakingly steep stairs, so we are being very careful. We’ve had dinner and done two loads of washing, and been for a walk through the town. For anyone who doesn’t know, Hay-on-Wye is referred to as ‘the town of books’ and is stuffed to the brim with bookstores. Obviously, it has been a longtime dream of mine to come here. I’m going to sit down and plan my day tomorrow to get the most out of it. Cannot. Wait.