AS a general rule in life, it’s usually best to be wary when someone suggests you meet them in a pub car park. But there are exceptions to every rule and that was the case last week when I turned up to the Hook and Glove in Farley to meet members of one of Salisbury’s most unusual and interesting book groups.

The idea of the book group is one as old as the novel itself. In the late 1760s, Hannah Adams, the first American woman to make a living through writing, set up a reading circle in Massachusetts; in 1778, Hannah Mather Crocker created a female reading society in Boston. From there the concept took hold more widely over the next hundred years or so.

The present-day resurgence of the book club is usually credited to Oprah Winfrey, who launched her hugely popular TV book club in the 1990s. These days, book clubs turn up in all shapes and sizes: Salisbury’s own BusyMamaBookClub is one of those who have taken the idea onto Instagram, for example.

But the heart of the book club movement remains in the hidden network of small local groups. It is hard to get an accurate picture of how many book clubs there are in Salisbury, but Salisbury Library provides books for around twenty groups in and about the city. From my knowledge of several book groups who don’t use the library, I think it is a reasonable supposition to suggest that that there may be as many as forty or fifty such groups in the area.

Back in that pub car park, I was there to meet members of Salisbury’s Walking Book Group. As the name suggests, this is a group who combine their book discussions with a hearty walk (five miles) followed by a pub lunch afterwards. The group got the idea after hearing about a similar group on Radio 4’s Ramblings programme. That walking book group was based in London and met for a one-hour stroll around Hampstead Heath. The Salisbury Walking Book Group, which has run for five years, is a somewhat hardier (and given the location, Hardy-er?) affair.

I joined them for a hugely pleasant (if slightly soggy) walk from Farley to Pitton and back again, to discuss AJ Pearce’s charming and delightful debut, Dear Mrs Bird. I wasn’t sure how combining walking and reading would work, but in fact, it worked extremely well – with the group breaking down into smaller clumps of twos and threes, it meant that everyone could discuss at the same time. It’s a great idea – and one even better when it isn’t raining!

For more information about the Salisbury Walking Book Club, please email: