The cosiest bookshop in Sussex?
By the time I got round to visiting Much Ado Books for the first time the other week it was like meeting an old friend. I’d been following this fabulous Alfriston bookshop online for a while, flagging up some of its author meets and craft workshops in my what’s ons and being impressed by some of its rare acquisitions, but so far on the occasions I’d been near the village either it had been closed or I was on my way elsewhere.
It was worth the wait. Lovely Nash, who owns the shop with his wife Cate showed me around. The couple, who hail from near Boston, have run the shop since 2004.
It’s a gorgeous place, which has just been refurbished. It’s spread over two floors, with nooks with comfy chairs to encourage browsing and an outside covered area with more bookshelves. There’s also a barn which holds some events and chickens wandering about.
Both new and used books are on sale, with a particularly good range related to the Bloomsbury Group who, of course, have associations with East Sussex. Extra special vintage books can be viewed on request.
Much Ado recently acquired the library of veteran MP Denis Healey who died last year. While you’ll certainly remember his eyebrows you may not know that he was an avid reader and his wife Edna an historian and author so this is quite a collection and many books are signed and dated with when they were last read.
As well as books there’s a wide selection of greetings cards on the ground floor and, Nash and Cate being creative types, you can buy some lovely handmade gifts like notebooks reusing the covers of vintage books that were otherwise too damaged to sell. For Christmas there are beautiful handmade stockings sold for charity which help reading projects both locally and in Uganda.
Something that has me kicking myself I don’t live nearer is the Friends of Much Ado club. Among various benefits, membership of £100 a year (£125 for couples) entitles you to a 20% discount on purchases, special prices on tickets for workshops and seminars and a free consultation with Nash or Cate to draw up a personal reading list – a personal shopper service for books if you will! Best of all, you have acess to a secret little reading/writing room where you can read books pre-publication, draft something on Denis Healey’s old typewriter if you wish, make yourself a cuppa, or even go the Hemmingway route and break into the vodka stash to help your creative juices flow!
Even if you’re not very local do keep an eye on Much Ado’s events as they’re worth making a special trip for. They’ve had famous writers like Jacqueline Wilson and Andy Hamilton down in recent months and coming up are a pop-up shop by Muswell Hill Creatives this 12 – 13 Nov, a Hygge event on 20 Nov and Christmas stitching for kids on 26 Nov.
If you live anywhere nearby, Alfriston needs no introduction but if you’re a day trip a way and haven’t yet visited this Medieval village you should know it’s just off the South Downs, boasts several cute tea rooms and boutiques, beamed pubs like the 14th Century George Inn, and there’s also the National Trust’s Clergy House to visit. Popular family attraction Druisillas Park is nearby with animals and rides. If you’re thinking of staying over, I heartily recommend the Flint Barns, high on a hill at Rathfinny wine estate, just outside the village, where I stayed recently and will be writing about later. (I’m also told they do a mean Sunday roast).
Understandably Alfriston is a bit of a tourist magnet so this time of year is the perfect time to visit without the crowds and to kickstart some Christmas shopping. The village’s Christmassy Dickensian Celebrations are coming up on 19 Nov.
Much Ado Books, 8 West Street, Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5UX, muchadobooks.com