Sunday, 14 March 2010

'B' is for Beeston and books

Last Saturday found Susan and I going to Beeston after receiving an invitation to be reflexology guinea pigs, so we decided to turn it into a half-day out. On better days, we would have walked all the way to Beeston, breaking our walk at the Lakeside Art Centre in Highfields Park for coffee and  shared cake. In the end we were lazy, had coffee and cake at home, then caught the bus to the eastern end of Beeston High Road, from where we ambled towards our destination with plenty of time for browsing and looking in bookshops before having a light lunch in one of our favourite eateries.

Did you notice that I said 'bookshops'? Beeston has four, plus a WH Smith's and numerous charity shops, all of which sell books. Reading this from afar, you may wonder where Beeston is in relation to Lenton in inner-city Nottingham. Well, its about  2½ miles south-west of Lenton and there are several routes you can take. It's the same if you walk. My preferred walking route includes two parks and the main campus of Nottingham University. Along the way you pass two art galleries and coffee shops and is a walk I do frequently. By bus, it's 15–20 minutes and by car it can take 10–15 minutes. We no longer own a car, but gave up going to Beeston by car long ago. Good bus services, bus lanes and door-to-door travel, with no need to waste time parking a car, make the bus best, during the day at least.

So, where are these bookshops and where did we have our leisurely light lunch before going for  our reflexology session and a sleep?
But first, a marker of sorts. This pic of the mile long pedestrianised Beeston High Road shows one its fun sculptures, looking west to east. Just beyond the yellow A-board on the right of the pic is the Oxfam bookshop and almost directly opposite is the Beeston Bookshop.
Beeston Bookshop is a long established 'remaindered' bookshop selling discontinued books, which covers a first floor as well as a ground floor.

Across the way is a Oxfam Bookshop. Recently these Oxfam bookshops have come in for a lot of criticism in the media for their, seemingly, 'predatory' approach, allegedly driving some small, private, bookshops out of business. Compared to other second-hand bookshops in Beeston, they are the most expensive. Over recent months, I have been into finding and reading Penelope Lively novels. Elsewhere, they have been £1–£2 each. Here £3–4. When it comes to local history books, they are even more pricey. At the end of the day, Oxfam is a charity (albeit, a big business as well) and if their bookshops were run badly they would not last long. 
My favourite second-hand bookshop in Beeston is 'Bookwise' on the Chilwell Road, which is what Beeston High Road joins at its western end. The walk is in a straight line, with the pedestrianised section ending by Beeston's main post office. Just continue walking on the north side of the road for about 200 yards and you come to Bookwise. It is run by 'Music for Everyone', originally formed in 1983 as the Nottingham Choral Trust. The volunteers are lovely and very helpful and I rarely go in and come out without buying a book.
Another 200 hundred yards down on the same side of Chilwell Road and you come to the newest of the second-hand bookshops. 'Karl's Bookshop' opened just before Christmas and is privately owned. Its prices are very reasonable and I already bought several books here. The couple who run the bookshop  are very helpful and friendly.  Next to them is 'Silver Tree', a jewellery and trinket shop which is jam-packed with delightful goodies.
And across the road is the 'Flying Goose', one of our favourite eating places. It does light lunches and snacks, plus lovely cakes, throughout the day. It is just the place to end or start a walk, with a choice of buses to and from Lenton every few minutes. On the days when we are invited to be reflexology guinea pigs, we always go to the Flying Goose beforehand. The window ledge inside is used display lots of cultural and and left-of-centre handouts and leaflets. The local Labour MP is Nick Palmer and is newsletter is usually there, along with Green Party and Transition Beeston material, plus The Guardian and The Independent.  In Lenton, this would be akin to our community run Crocus Café.  On the walls inside there is always a temporary exhibition of works by local artists for sale and every couple of months there are poetry reading sessions, which usually cost £3 including a glass of wine.

So, there you have it, an enjoyable suburban stroll within minutes of Lenton and Nottingham, with four decent bookshops as well, not to mention  some nice craft and jewellery shops as well. 

The Liberal Democrats have distanced themselves from the Conservatives by warning they would not support plans to cut public spending too early in the next parliament.

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