IN the quaint little village of Portesham sits a charming telephone box which might just surprise you.

Open its door and, although you won’t be able to make a call, you’ll discover something much better; more than 200 books of all genres for all ages.

At any time of day or night, villagers and visitors to Portesham have free access to books. The deal is, if you want to take a book, all you have to do is swap it for one of your own.

But the telephone box, which takes pride of place on the village green, has a lovely story of its own.

In 2006, villagers fought - and won- a battle to keep the green, cast iron kiosk which they said was vital to their lives because mobile phone signals in Portesham were very poor or non-existent.

In 2008, residents faced the challenge of saving the iconic phone box for a second time after BT announced it was to scrap more than 70 rural telephone kiosks across West Dorset.

Recognising the popularity of telephone boxes, particularly in rural areas such as Portesham, BT launched its ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme, enabling communities to retain them.

The invite was extended to local authorities, parish and town councils, registered charities and private land owners.

While the picturesque village has everything one might need; a post office, a primary school, a church and a pub, there was one thing it was set to lose - a mobile library service, which used to visit once a week, was withdrawn in 2015.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

SUPRISE: Swap your books inside Portesham's phone box

Conveniently, this happened at the same time BT began ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ and Chesil Bank Parish Council stepped in to save what had become a much-loved fixture of the village – for the princely sum of £1.

It meant there were two questions to answer; what could be done with the unused phone box and what could be done to ensure villagers, many of whom were elderly, had access to reading material.

And so, the idea was born.

Portesham parish councillors Ruth Chipp-Marshall and Janice Beck dote on the book swap, ensuring it remains tidy and replenished.

Ms Chipp-Marshall said: "The feedback has been brilliant. We are delighted with it. It was perfect timing after the mobile library went. We have an elderly population here, and many like to read, so it was the perfect solution. Everyone loves the novelty of it - and it's so central to the village. People will go along and bump into people they know - even people they don't - and have a chat. It's fantastic."

The book swap relies on donations if it is to continue. Such is its popularity, it doesn't seem short of those at the moment.

Ms Chipp-Marshall said: "We're continuously collecting and have had 500-600 books at times. If you don't involve people in things, they don't stay interested. It has been delightful to see all of the community get involved with this. I absolutely hope it will be there forever more."