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 Book Shops > A Few Norfolk Bookshops

A Few Norfolk Bookshops

Although the days of axle bending loads of books, hoovered up on regular forays to the more distant parts of the UK, are long gone, we still manage to buy a book or two on holiday. And the fond hope remains that the profits from our purchases will go some way to covering our meager expenses.

The North Norfolk coast has long been a favourite destination, but it's been three years since our last trip -- would it still manage to deliver that vital combination of stunning landscape, and the prospect of a profit?

After what had seemed like weeks of rain, the weather in Norfolk turned out to be clement. Not much sun, but not much rain either -- what more can you expect from the early British summer? Of course this meant that we only visited a few bookshops, choosing instead to enjoy what the North Norfolk coast does best, the outdoors.

At Stiffkey, we camped at the edge of the marshes seeming vastness, privileged visitors to a world of seals, marsh harriers, and barn owls. It was mainly the need for food and drink that lured us back to human habitations.

The good news is that in North Norfolk it doesn't need to be a very large human habitation to support a bookshop. This must be partly due to the 'Chelsea-on-Sea' reputation of places like Burnham Market. But whatever the reasons, you can still find books of every type and price along the coast from Cromer to Kings Lynn.

Our first stop was just down the road at Cley, a village famed for it's bird life, deli, and smokery -- and now the home of Crabpot Books. Opened since our last visit, I was keen to check it out.

It turned out to be bright, well laid out, and offered a surprising variety of competitively priced secondhand books. Norfolk and natural history are an obvious choice of specialism, and there was a well-stocked bookcase of New Naturalist titles.

Well laid out is not a phrase I would choose to describe The Brazen Head Bookshop in nearby Burnham Market. Indeed, on the day we visited it was impossible to get into the architecture room because a bookslide had completely blocked the doorway. Still, the downstairs rooms are more organised, with plenty of good books in the front room cabinets.

Further inland, Holt used to be something of a centre for secondhand books. But with the closure of Jackdaw Books and the reduction of Baron Arts stock to a few books above their gallery, Simon Finch is now the only shop in town.

The Finch empire's Norfolk outpost has an almost Dickensian air about it. This isn't really surprising as it doesn't look as if any money has been spent on its interior since Charles was writing the tomes the shop sells. Although to be fair, they have at last fixed the hole in the stairs. A good room-full of art books is a recent improvement, there's lots of leather, and it's still worth poking about in the dusty corners.

There are some books in Holt's antiques centre, but as is often the case, slow turnover means that I'm fairly sure I recognise some of the titles from our last visit three years ago ...

Back along the coast to the north is Wells-next-the Sea, where the Old Station Pottery & Bookshop is good for children's fiction and art, and there are two remainder and secondhand paperback shops in the main street.

The threat of rain on Friday prompted us to visit Kings Lynn for the first time. However, we couldn't pass Torc Books in Snettishham without a quick look. Although the owner has more or less retired and is now only open on Fridays and Saturdays, we still managed to find one or two interesting books.

Bookends in Kings Lynn proved to be well worth the visit, with three floors of better than average books at very reasonable prices. We managed to find a couple of bags full and I was particularly pleased with one of my purchases. A short walk away, John Lowe has a book stall in The Old Granary Antiques Centre, but we didn't find anything.

We have been meaning to visit the National Trust's Blickling Hall for years but somehow never got round to it. It's a fine Jacobean house, with interesting gardens, and ... a fundraising secondhand bookshop. I have to confess that the shop turned out to be much better than I had expected, and the two bags of books we bought rounded off a most enjoyable visit. As for the other shops, they will just have to wait till next time ...

And finally, I've included the picture below because it seemed to sum up the relaxed and strangely timeless quality of much of this area of Norfolk.

Mike Goodenough
17.06.08

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