Surrounded by farmers’ fields and big skies, it’s an unlikely place to find a bookshop.

But thanks to its unusual model of selling books directly to schools as well as the general public, the Norfolk Children's Book Centre has grown and thrived since it was founded more than 35 years ago. 

Marilyn Brocklehurst, a former librarian who started the centre in her garage down a quiet country lane at Alby - between Cromer and Aylsham - said: “I had four boxes of books in the shed and then we built an extension to the house.

"Eventually, we built another building and reopened, and bought a field to make the car park.”

Mrs Brocklehurst has 12 employees, some of whom visit schools for book readings, as well as teacher conferences. 

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The centre has also built up a track record of selling to English-language schools on the European continent, in places such as Vienna, Toulouse and Paris. 

Mrs Brocklehurst said they still sold books to schools abroad, but it had been more difficult since the double hit of Covid and Brexit.

She said: “When you take 20,000 books in a van and customs want you to take them all out to have a look at what you’ve got, it’s a bit more difficult.” 

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Tom Hunt, who has worked at the centre for more than 20 years, said: “The centre was doing things that no other bookshop was doing. 

“We weren’t principally a bookshop, we were a way of bringing books to children in schools.

“People ask how a bookshop got here in the middle of a field. It’s the way it has evolved.”

Despite the rural location, Mrs Brocklehurst said the shop did still get passing trade, especially in the summer when holidaymakers stay in the area. 

Jane Coates, another team member, said: “It’s a very special place. Everyone who comes here for the first time says ‘Oh wow’.

“They were not expecting quite so many books to greet them when they walk through the door.”