Wild Wales: There’s more to life than books, but not much more…

Chapter three: In which we encounter market day, find a jolly nice bookshop and celebrate beautiful crafts.

If you are ever in North Wales on a Wednesday then head for Machynlleth market. Stalls are lined up along the main streets and there is a palpable sense of excitement. This is a proper market where people come to buy things unavailable in local shops – there is a bike repair man mending well used cycles, a stall stacked with magazines from the 1930’s (Picturegoer!) and beautifully catalogued found photos at 25p a shot. Clumps of carrots and beetroot on the grocer’s stall are organic and have clods of earth still clinging to the roots, none of those pre-washed and plastic packaged supermaket goods here. Fabric and clothes, work boots, handmade bread, olives…we could do a stall by stall review of the delights.MarketDayTheBigForest5

Some of you will remember we blogged about the poem Miss Thompson Goes Shopping and the market really is reminiscent of that earlier time but with a genuine utility rather than heritage gloss.

We know Machynlleth well, indeed we were greeted by people who remember us from our previous visits although we are unsure if this says more about us than the good people of Machynlleth, but we found the most wonderful bookshop we hadn’t explored before. It’s called Pen’rallt Gallery and Bookshop and on their business card it says:

Recent and 20th Century books: photography, the arts, ecology, children’s plus a carefully selected new and second-hand general stock. Exhibiting national and local photographers and illustrators.

BookshopWalesTheBigForest2BookshopWalesTheBigForest3We love everything about this place – the Conran House Book 1970’s colour scheme revitalised, the friendly owners and best of all the perfect selection of books. Most of them could have come from our own bookshelves, but we did find a couple of second-hand childrens books for inspiration and we will return to browse the shelves during our next visit. Pen’rallt Bookshop doesn’t sell on the internet so you will need to beat a path to their door – and tell them TheBigForest sent you.

The next day we went to Ruthin to see what I think was called on launch The Ruthin Centre for Applied Arts but is now shortened to Ruthin Craft Centre which slightly obscures the quality and beauty of the work it shows. The problematic nature of the word ‘craft’ is well documented and we could see the term ‘applied arts’ may turn punters away from exploring the gallery, studios and friendly café. Benjamin, who has learnt much from my forays in to culture-led regeneration, started talking about ‘low footfall’ but despite the slight sleepiness there is a lot to keep one interested and the shop is wonderful. Well worth a visit.RuthinCraftCentreTheBigForest4

That evening we made bread with local flour from Bacheldre Mill, (apparently it can be bought on Amazon) and it makes an exceptionally light loaf. They even do a smoked flour but we just weren’t brave enough to try it. Maybe it will be a must-buy next time we shop in Machynlleth?

There is more to life than books, but not much more is a (slightly edited) Morrissey lyric from Handsome Devil – but you knew that already.

Pen’rallt gallery and bookshop is at Heol Pen’rallt, Machynlleth, Powys and if you are visiting from afar it may be best to call ahead on 01654 700559 as I’m not sure about their opening times when Autumn turns to Winter.

Ruthin Craft Centre has a website worth exploring – it’s just a google click away folks!

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. What a fine way to spend a day! Books and crafts–yes!

  2. You’re making me want to plan a trip to Wales with your lovely posts.

  3. I’d love to visit Wales… And you got to show us that there are, indeed sunny days to be had! I’d love to peruse a local market, a not-on-the-internet (what a rarity these days!) bookstore… Ah, I think I have holiday envy 🙂

    • We were all packed up with waterproofs and never needed them – its been perfect sun almost everyday on our last two visits! Its was a working ‘holiday’ so don’t be too envious 🙂

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