A SHABBY, disused telephone box has been restored – but instead of visitors picking up the receiver they now pick up a book.
Landlady Murrie Venis led a lockdown project to give the traditional red phone kiosk close to her pub a new lease of life.
When The Green Tree in Tudhoe Village, near Spennymoor, was closed due to coronavirus, Mrs Venis used the time to redecorate the premises.
She decided to remove a reading corner and, noticing the phone box was empty, came up with a plan.
Mrs Venis said: "A lot of people were walking in the village, asking what we were doing and we decided to set up a table to give the books away to those passing.
"But we found lots of people swapped them for a book they were finished with so it became a lending library, over that time we gave out about 300 books.
"Meanwhile, our village phone box was in a dreadful state and I thought we could use that to keep the library going as people really seemed to love it."
Mrs Venis, who runs the pub with husband James and is supported by parents Paul and Lynda Hopson, began working with the Community HeartBeat Trust which owns the box.
The charity has adopted decommissioned public telephone kiosks across the country to house community defibrillators.
However, this was not needed in Tudhoe as there is already one at The Green Tree which raises funds for its maintenance.
Mrs Venis set up a community charity called PUB – Preloved Unread Books – and issued a social media appeal for support.
A small number of volunteers and local tradespeople helped get the box reglazed, repainted, tiled and fitted with shelves and lighting.
It has since been stocked with more than 200 books from children's stories and fiction to cookery books and autobiographies.
Mrs Venis said: "The response has been incredible, people think it is great and are really proud of it.
"People can come into the pub to get the key code then help themselves to a book, hopefully they'll stop for a drink but mainly it is about the community.
"My family are all avid readers so I think there is a real benefit in free access to a range of books.
"I've been licensee for 15 years and it was never a working phone in my time, it was shabby with broken windows and flaky paint and is now a village resource.
"One retired teacher remembers it being installed in the 1930s and is thrilled with it."