We have been making it our mission to be discovering Sheffield in different ways since we started visiting. From large city parks to museums, galleries, independent shops and alley ways. On our trip at the weekend (which was supposed to be for the Christmas Market) we found ourselves discovering new angles of the city by wandering and following our curiosity. Which, I reckon, is one of the best ways to explore somewhere and get to know it better.
Christmas in Sheffield
So I had this idea that I would like to visit the Christmas Markets in different cities within reach from Manchester. I thought Sheffield would be a good bet so off we went. The only research I did was on train times and that the market was on. Whoops! It seems that Sheffield has a rather small market.
Our first port of call, as usual was the Millennium Gallery and the Winter Garden. We explored the exhibition and enjoyed our flask tea before heading our to explore.
After fueling up on tea we had a quick browse of the market before wandering off. We had no set plan at first, just walking in the areas which we knew. But had the thought of visiting the Museum Park that we saw on our last visit to the city. As it goes, we spotted a sign for Sheffield Botanical gardens and with that we were on our way there instead.
Following the signs
The walk to the botanical gardens was filled with all sorts of curious things and exciting ways to explore. We had never ventured into this part before so everything was so fresh and interesting. (well, even more interesting than I already find everything… if that is at all possible!) Our favourties from the walk were the hoovers above the shop (we’d seen this in the gallery) and the fake pillars around the door. Who would have thought that they would be fake? Not me, that’s for sure!
It is amazing how many oddities, curios and interesting things you can discover when you’re in a new place. Which is why I like to look around me like a tourist. It makes everything new, even if I have walked past it hundreds of times. I am sure to find something new when I am open to seeing it.
Anyway, we arrived at the Botanical Garden and were extolling the virtues about having free access. A luxury that is becoming rare in European cities and one that we should make more use of. Not only botanical gardens, but museums, galleries and everything that we have access to – but do remember to donate to keep them that way! OK, I’ll get off my soap box about that now and get to the garden.
Sheffield Botanical Garden
Being fans of glass houses, we headed straight to the one to the right of the entrance. It was very similar to the one we visited in Glasgow so we had high hopes due to the layout. We were pleased to see that although, slightly smaller than the one we saw in Glasgow, it was just as well planted and tended. The huge tree fern was a grand specimen against the skylight. Boggles your eyes a bit though!
I love all the different varieties of plants that you see in glass houses in botanical gardens and especially the different colours contrasting.
Sufficiently warm from the shelter of the glass house we ventured out to explore the gardens. I was so shocked to see that there were still flowers in bloom in the borders. And the autumn colours were amazing. So amazing that I had to grab one of the tiny Acer leaves and take one of those ‘holding leaf’ photos you see on Instagram.
The gardens are much bigger than you would expect and we spent a good forty minutes wandering through the borders and admiring both the views and the serenity of the place. There is even a lovely timber community building and toilets for public access.
Although we could have spent even more time wandering the park we decided that we would head back towards town on the hunt for lunch. Thoroughly enjoying yet more fun and creativity on the way!
Another surprise turn
I know that Sheffield is a very green city, but stumbling upon a Nature Reserve in what appeared to be the student area was not what I expected to find. Just set back up some steps there was a lovely wood with sculptures and the sound of bird song. Of course, no curious explorer could bypass such an opportunity, so we checked in with our map and in we went.
Sunnybank was a lovely detour and actually took us out onto a better route than we had been originally planning on walking. Just goes to show the serendipity of following your nose. With our tummies ready for feeding after our ad hoc adventuring we headed to The Art House for some lunch.
By the way, if you’re new to my blog then you might not know that if I share somewhere to eat out then it is a bit of a big deal! We are picnickers usually and when I find somewhere that does dairy free lunches for a great price, then it goes on here! The Art House is definitely up there on the list.
Bridges and Weirs
After lunch we took to the streets again taking a wander while we digested our food. While pondering whether to jump a tram to head to Meadowhall shopping centre we happened upon a way marker pointing out a walking route there. It was part of the Five Weirs Walk. With no set plans, we jumped at the chance to discover Sheffield from a different angle and off we went.
I knew we were on the right kind of walk when I was poking my arms through railings to capture the beauty of the bricks on one of the waterside buildings. It is a telltale trait of a blogger, but I imagine you can see why I was doing it?
The route is very well signed by Sustrans so it was simple to know where we were heading. We did keep our map open though, just to check that we were on the right track for the shopping centre and not just swanning about. (like usual!) I love how there are little quirky bits of art or sculptures to look out for too. But I have to say that my favourite bit was the Cobweb Bridge.
A brief detour (not of our own making, but from flood defense work) around the industrial buildings and we were back on the water again.
The route seems to take a slightly unexpected twist where you walk along a very wide canal. It was very similar to the Manchester Ship Canal or the River Irwell in Manchester. It was fun seeing a different side to Sheffield that we haven’t seen before.
To my surprise we came upon another gorgeous bridge on our adventures. This time, though, it was less comical and more organic. Arches with plants growing over the top. It led us over the river and down onto the other bank.
Not long after following the river around, we were heading into woodland by what looked more like a brook. It was a vast change of scenery in such a short distance. Quiet and away from the traffic of the city (not that there was that much to be honest) but we could hear the birds and the crunching leaves beneath our feet.
Darkness creeping in
The further we wandered the darker it started to get. Not just because of the canopy of trees, but with the winter nights creeping in.
Unfortunately due to heading out onto the canal so late we realised that we wouldn’t make it all the way to Meadow Hall this time. So we set a time for heading back to ensure that we weren’t lingering on the dark canal. This meant a short walk further and then turning back towards town. We didn’t mind though as it meant that we have another fun day to look forward to.
On the way back towards town I spotted the glow of a yellow flower peeping through the long dark grass and crispy leaves. A tiny big of colour pushing through into the colder days. Of course I had to collect a picture of it to share with you. Along with the “peep cat” which we spotted a few times along the walk.
Through the woods and by the brook, we made our way back to the Cobweb Bridge. This time, though, the spiders eyes were (kind of) lighting our way through the darkness. I love the idea of having different and fun bridges in the city. It might encourage more people to get out exploring if they get a funny tale to tell – would it encourage you? To have some funny things to hunt out in the city? (Let me know in the comments…one might come to Manchester if you do!)
Before we knew it we were back at the gorgeous buildings that I mentioned earlier in my post. I just love the old and new mix that there is along the water in Sheffield. So well planned and combined. Not like most cities (no naming and shaming, but I am sure you can guess or name a few yourself) where the old is discarded in favour of yet another glass edifice.
As the sky started to fade from blue into black, we headed into town towards the station. So eager to come back already having discovered more walking routes than we could imagine – always the way! Into the glowing lights by the Winter Garden then onto the slope to the station.
It might seem a little bit on the odd side, but I absolutely love ending the day in the dark. Kind of like you have finished what you are doing and it creates a close to the story of the day.
Our story of the day ended with a walk down to the train and a relaxed journey home to Manchester. It was certainly a fun day filled with discoveries and our eagerness to return for the walks is strong. We have been trying to work out where we can fit it in before Christmas. Yes, it is that kind of eagerness.
I will let you know when we make it! There is a lot to do before Christmas, many things we want to see and do and there are only about three and a half weeks left…. eep!!
We had lots of fun discovering Sheffield and would love some tips if you have some! Have you explored a different side to Sheffield? Where can you recommend for us to wander next time? Do you love exploring where you live?
Let me know in the comments below.