Three years ago Anne Ward published a sparkling little book called Nothing To See Here, detailing several dozen offbeat places scattered around Scotland. It was based on a blog of the same name, now on hiatus, which also sometimes ventured south of the border. And that's helped set up Anne's latest publication, Northern Delights- A Guide to the Hidden Joys of the North of England. For this she's visited fifty oddities from the Wirral to Kielder, dragging her family and her camera on various car tours to complete her research. Every entry thus comes copiously photographed, seemingly always on a blue-skied day for which I am very jealous.
Don't expect the usual. Learn where to go on a rhubarb tour, where to find a collection of steam organs and where to spot a life-sized steam train made from 185000 bricks. Concrete lovers will appreciate the Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, Forton Services on the M6 and Preston Bus Station. And yes, of course the Cumberland Pencil Museum is featured, because that's the law in any compilation of quirky bits of the north. To my shame I reckon I've only visited five, so I'm treating the other 90% as a wishlist for the future. Maybe one day I'll burrow through the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels, gulp down a Scarborough ice cream sundae and dine in a South Shields cave - Anne's bright prose and pictures make them all look temptingly fine. Her handbag-sized volume costs £6.99, and is published by a small company based in Dumfries and Galloway (hence my copy arrived from a DG postcode in two days flat). It'd make a lovely stocking filler, but I'm definitely keeping mine.