Virtual Bookshop Tour: The New Bookshop, Cockermouth

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Day Three: Cockermouth

Cockermouth is a peaceful market town on the western edge of The Lake District in Cumbria. It marks the point where the Rivers Cocker and Derwent join, and a 13th century stone castle looks over the town from this river junction.

The Lake District is featured several times throughout The Jack Hansard Series. Jack first travels there to meet the Witch of the Lakes and then moves on to spend some time in Cockermouth – where he falls victim to an invisible thief, and meets a morose shellycoat lurking in the river. During his mad dash through the town, it’s quite likely that he would have passed right by the doors of The New Bookshop, our tour stop for today.


The New Bookshop Street Frontage
The New Bookshop
42-44 Main Street
Cockermouth
CA13 9LQ

“The bookshop has been here for 52 years, endured some hard times but has sat solidly on Main Street as a welcoming, friendly space known and loved by the town.”

Catherine from The New Bookshop

The New Bookshop has a large, attractive blue and white frontage on Cockermouth’s high street. I love their bird logo and style of the shop interior; it projects a smooth and calm character to me.

Inside, it’s a spacious shop with grey tiled floor, with large open bookshelves and table neatly stacked with hand-picked titles. This is a bookshop which gives you space to appreciate the book-browsing experience.


Inside The New Bookshop

They also have that most coveted of bookshop add-ons: the coffee shop. It boasts homemade cakes with good tea and coffee, alongside a scrumptious Breakfast and Lunch menu if you need a heartier meal.

I love a good bookish coffee shop. Books – whether in shops or in libraries – are often at the heart of communities, and providing an extra meeting space with seating and refreshments just naturally rounds out their underlying purpose as a community hub.


The New Bookshop Coffee Shop

The importance of community can also be felt through The New Bookshop’s events programme. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have understandably wiped out their 2020 calendar, but as well as the usual author book signing events, they’ve also previously hosted musicians, a regular social book group, and a children’s story time group.



How can I support The New Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The New Bookshop has taken to social media to help you find the books you need. Follow them on Instagram for book recommendations, Facebook for more detailed news, and Twitter for the bitesize version.

If you prefer a more traditional online shopping experience, then you can now browse their collections on the new indie bookselling platform uk.bookshop.org. Here The New Bookshop have curated themed selections to help you discover exactly what you’re looking for – and every purchase you make also goes towards funding independent bookshops around the country. (To learn more about bookshop.org you can read my previous post about it here.)

Remember though, it’s often still better to buy direct from independent bookshops if you can, so take a moment to check out their special Christmas stock. They have some cool gift ideas in, like this very cute range of felting kits and their ‘Lucky Dip’ themed book bundles.


Lucky Dip: 3 Paperbacks for £15
Email to grab a bundle for yourself!

And if your bookshelves are currently too full? Well, you can donate a children’s book to a Cumbrian family in need this Christmas. This is an initiative The New Bookshop runs each year. They donate a large collection themselves and take donated books bought by customers to pass on to their local Foodbank. I’ve done this myself and it’s super easy: just pop them an email with a price range and title – or you can ask them to pick out a book for you instead – and they’ll sort everything else.


You can donate books up to 6th December
SCIENCE! Browse these kids’ books and more on their social media pages

You can get in touch with The New Bookshop via their social media, or by email: info@newbookshop.co.uk

During lockdown there will also be someone in the shop between 9am and 1pm Monday-Saturday if you want to give them a ring: 01900 822 062


Three days down, four more to go. Are you enjoying our Bookshop Tour? Tomorrow we’re heading to Kingston upon Hull, on the Humber Estuary.


All photos reproduced with the kind permission of The New Bookshop.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The Ironbridge Bookshop

Virtual Bookshop Tour

Day Two: Ironbridge

Pack your bags and get ready for a day-trip from the comfort of your sofa/bed/bathtub. Today we’re off to The Ironbridge Gorge, an area in Shropshire that has the privilege of being a World Heritage Site because of its global importance to the Industrial Revolution. It’s a tremendously beautiful place; the green, densely wooded slopes of the Gorge belie the grittiness of its industrial history.

Readers of The Jack Hansard Series will understand why Ironbridge is so close to my heart. This is where we meet Ang, the crotchety little Welsh coblyn who becomes Jack’s trustworthy sidekick. They meet in the town of Ironbridge, which is where we find our bookshop stop for today: The Ironbridge Bookshop.


Ironbridge Bookshop
The Ironbridge Bookshop
5 The Square
Ironbridge

A big part of what makes independent bookshops so special is the people who run them. This bookshop happens to be run by the youngest bookshop-owner in England – yes, you read that right. Meg was just 18 when she took over The Ironbridge Bookshop six years ago, after having also worked there while growing up. Her brilliantly inventive and colourful displays are at the heart of this bookshop’s character.

Outside, the bookshop has a bright but quaint aesthetic to match the traditional surroundings of the town. Inside on the ground floor is where you’ll find a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. It’s a modest space and you won’t pack many people in at once, but the shelves are a treasure-trove of excellent books. I can attest to this personally as I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – and filling out my Terry Pratchett collection – on a few occasions.

Upstairs, however, is a different story. As you walk up the striking book-themed stairs, you quickly realise that The Ironbridge Bookshop is also a specialist bookshop.


Ironbridge Bookshop Penguin Wall
The Penguin Wall

“I’d say the most characteristic part of the shop is the Penguin Wall or book stairs. They are both colourful and eye catching and always provide a talking point!”

Meg from The Ironbridge Bookshop

Penguin books are at the heart and soul of this shop. One vibrant wall of books – affectionately called the Penguin Wall – is filled with this huge collection of original Penguin titles. Some of them are quite rare indeed. If you have a Penguin collector in your life, send them this way immediately.

The upper floor is also home to beloved children’s classics: think Ladybird books and Beatrix Potter.

Overall, this bookshop has the kind of homely vibe that I love. Slightly narrow, slightly messy, filled with the clutter of an avid booklover. (Yes, books stacked on books is a legitimate decorating style, don’t judge me!) It’s bright and colourful and a joy to hunt for bookish treasures in.


Ironbridge Bookshop Book Stairs
These stairs feature in a lot of The Ironbridge Bookshop’s creative Instagram book displays.

How can I support The Ironbridge Bookshop?

If you’re lucky enough to live in the local area, The Ironbridge Bookshop is offering a click and collect service. And if not, they will post books out to you instead!

You should definitely follow the bookshop on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where Meg regularly posts beautiful book displays for you to enjoy. This is also a lovely way to browse new and old titles alike – often with a little bit of history included in the description, too. Follow, learn, and maybe snag yourself a collectible along the way!

These books from the ‘In Praise of’ series have caught my eye: sweet little books filled with uplifting poetry, short quotes and old photos, currently available for just £5.99 each.

Beautiful Vintage Books
“Published by Frederick Muller between 1947-1955, with a range of titles, put together by different authors.” – The Ironbridge Bookshop

And here’s an example of the kind of classic gems you might discover. Isn’t this selection of vintage Alice in Wonderland covers fascinating?



Placing an order is easy. You can get in touch with The Ironbridge Bookshop through any of their social media channels, or by sending an email to theironbridgebookshop@gmail.com

And if you’re hunting for something specific, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice. Have fun treasure-hunting!


Before we go, here’s an extra stop for the Jack Hansard fans. Below is the famous Iron Bridge which Jack crosses to meet Ang and her hidden community of Welsh coblynau. The bridge was built in 1781 and is widely regarded as the first major bridge to be made of cast iron. And it’s just opposite The Ironbridge Bookshop!


Iron Bridge
Tk420, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

That brings us to the end of today’s tour. I’ll leave you to browse while I prepare for tomorrow’s leg of the journey; it’s a long way to Cumbria. (If you want to see what’s coming up, you can find the full Tour Itinerary here.)

See you tomorrow!


All bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of The Ironbridge Bookshop.

Join me on a Virtual Bookshop Tour around the country

Are you fed up with being stuck inside during lockdown? Missing the ability to travel and explore new places? Me too. That’s why I’m running a Virtual Bookshop Tour next week!

Join me on 23rd – 28th November for a journey around England to visit major locations from The Jack Hansard Series – and at every stop we’ll be throwing the spotlight on a local independent bookshop. One of the joys of indie bookshops is how unique they all are: worth visiting as much for their character as for the books they sell.

We’ll sight-see some dramatic locations, gorgeous furnishings and quirky features (although sadly I cannot reproduce the authentic bookish smell). Whether you miss the thrill of travelling, are hankering for some Christmas book-shopping ideas, or simply ADORE bookshops, join us Monday-Sunday for the tour and show these independent booksellers some love!

Here’s your Tour Itinerary:

Necessary Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these bookshops and gain nothing apart from enjoyment from this exercise. 🙂

Step aside, Amazon. A new Indie Bookseller is in town.

Indie bookshops are turning to online solutions as coronavirus closes doors again.

Yesterday the publishing world was awash with news of the UK launch of uk.bookshop.org, a new book-selling platform geared towards helping independent bookshops in the online marketplace. It first launched in the US back in January and has since then partnered with over 900 indie bookshops and raised over $7.5m in funds to support them.

“Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.”

In their own words.

This new platform – simply named Bookshop – provides an online space for physical bookshops, authors, and influencers to band together in order to funnel money towards independent booksellers. Money is earned in two ways: by commission, selling through virtual shopfronts or with affiliate links; and through payments from a central pool of profits which are shared out equally to bookstores. A bookstore can earn the full 30% from sales through their shopfront plus a share of that central pool, while Affiliates can earn a 10% commission on each sale they prompt.

Like many indie authors (not all, I hasten to add) I am a reluctant Amazon-user. I distribute my book through Amazon out of necessity – I would lose too many potential readers if I ignored it. (EVERYBODY uses Amazon, and the Kindle is one of the biggest ereaders out there.) So the arrival of a new indie book platform with the express intent of rivaling Amazon feels like a brilliant step forwards.

It sounds like a win-win-win.

However, there are a few less positive opinions of Bookshop.org bouncing around as well. One view is that the platform doesn’t actually help physical bookstores as much as it claims to. It’s still often slightly more profitable for a bookshop if you buy in-store or from their official website, rather than to buy through their Bookshop.org page. It’s also been suggested that all of the Affiliate pages might drown out the shopfronts of actual indie bookstores. While Bookshop.org is intentionally encouraging the bookloving community to jump in and create lists of books and drive traffic towards them, some indie booksellers feel this might be pulling traffic away from their own storefronts.

The upside of this, to my mind, is that every Affiliate sale also contributes to that central pool of funds which is shared among the indie bookstores. So Affiliates like authors and book reviewers – who often use Affiliate links to other book-selling sites anyway – can still earn a profit from their links while ALSO helping out indie bookshops.

Another advantage is that Bookshop.org takes care of fulfilment – they handle the physical work of packaging and shipping the books to customers. As the next lockdown looms large in the UK, this ability for bookshops to go completely (and hopefully only temporarily) virtual is a literal lifesaver to some businesses.

“It has been an utter lifeline. Sales flooded in as soon as we announced our temporary closure.”

Bookshop.org helped this business survive through the initial onslaught of Covid-19

So far, it looks like the majority of opinion from the indie community is overwhelmingly positive. Frankly anything that encourages readers away from Amazon – and nudges them back in the direction of local independents – is an idea to be celebrated.

Below, you can see what my Affiliate Author page currently looks like. (Yes, this is an Affiliate Link.) I’ll use it to list my own books and a couple of relevant collections for those who like to know what I read. Anything you buy from my page will earn me a 10% commission, and it will be matched by another 10% which goes towards supporting indie bookshops. But for a much broader and less eclectic mix of titles, you should definitely use the map tool to find your closest indie bookshop and browse through their page as well.

You can see that when I wrote this, they’d already raised over £22,000 for indie bookshops since launching yesterday.

If you’re an indie bookseller, feel free to drop your bookshop.org link in the comments along with an intro to your store. I’ll share the hell out of it where I can. Look out for more posts about indie bookshops coming soon!