CRT has missed a trick by not creating more visitor mooring in Sheffield. There’s only room for 2 or 3 boats with a 48 hour restriction. Not much incentive when you have to book lock passage 24 hours in advance and then spend the best part of a day working through 15 heavy locks to find you might not be able to moor. But the fees in the basin are reasonable so we booked ourselves a berth to give us time to explore.
‘Back in the day’ circa 1819 the Sheffeild Canal Basin was completed at the end of the Sheffield Canal. It must have been an amazing sight as coal and grain were brought here. The buildings are impressive which implies a good profit was being made. It stopped being used commercially in the 1970s but was regenerated in the 1990s. We were given a spot right next to “The Straddle” which as the name implies, straddles the basin.
And although fishing inset allowed in the actual basin, it’s a favourite spot for the resident heron. Usually we see herons standing in the shallows and piercing the water with their long necks to catch fish. Not this one, it launched its self of the ledge in an undignified bellyflop and huge splash. I suspect it only caught anything cause the fish were immobilized with laughter rather than stealth and surprise. Never the less we did see it make several catches.
At night the Straddle is lit up in glorious Technicolor, each light rotating through a sequence. Quite impressive for the guests overlooking the basin from the neighbouring Hilton hotel.
In order to leave the basin we needed to use the winding space reached by cruising under the Straddle, to the Terminal Wharf, this end is where the grain was stored. It’s now known as the Ovo building.
I wonder what the people in the offices now think when a boat cruises below them
Some of the arches have been turned into commercial units, the best two being the cafe whose cooked breakfast aroma stirred us from our slumber at 7 am and The Dorothy Pax, a bar/social venue that took over the late shift and kept our evenings entertaining. The whole area was vibrant and friendly although the other side of the arches was less salubrious
We were quite sad when it was time for us to move on through the swing bridge. Sheffield has been a great place to visit. Made even better being able to meet up with family, and there’s still loads that we havent seen I am sure we will be back to explore more in the future
Sheffield is known for its creativity and in the 60s the University built the iconic Arts Tower, which is still the tallest academic building in the UK. I’d have loved to have gone to the top to look down but we joined the students in Weston gardens looking up.
It seems like Sheffield has a love of tall art, we came across this wall mural called “The Snog” by Pete McKee
And even more impressive was the “Steelworker” by Paul Waplington. It uses 18 different types of brick 30000 in total and 5 different mortars.
Sheffield is rightly proud of its Steel industry although sadly it’s on its last legs now. Regardless of my political leanings I feel quite strongly about this, as I expect these sheffield women of steel would also.
But they do have some funny ideas of what we like to see in our public art. This is known as the spiders web bridge, crossing the River Don under one of the Wicker Arches
It’s actually a very clever suspension bridge that takes it’s inspiration from nature and the cables are attached to the sides of the old brick archway
I made if safely across in both directions so I could go and explore some more.
One of the things that Sheffield does incredibly well is public transport. There are buses and trams everywhere you look.
So we bought a weeks rover ticket for £17 and hopped on and off exploring north south east and west. We had to pay a little extra to get to Castleton, because that’s in Derbyshire. But it was worth it. We sat like excited children on the top deck in the scenic seats at the front. It would ha’ve been worth it just to do a round trip, the views were amazing, so much better than when we’ve done it by car, even whilst we were still in the city
Once we got to Castleton, walked up to past Windy Knoll to Mam Tor
We stopped at the Blue John Mine cafe for a piece of Blue John cake, they even let us eat our own sandwiches at their cafe
And what a view, looking down the valley. If you watch channel 4, this is where they filmed one of their “indents” with the big steel walking man.
Refreshed we continued our walk upwards but as it was very windy and we were reliant on the hourly bus we opted to follow the summit. Mam Tor is also known as the shivering mountain because of its frequent land slips. The road to Chapel en le Frith notoriously fell victim to this and in the mid 70s the powers that be realised their lack of power and gave up trying to save it.
We scrambled across the tarmac islands and continues on our way. There’s so many opportunities to walk around here, we came out into the Peak District a couple of times. And I’m sure we’ll be back.
Eric and I both studied in Sheffield back in the 80s. But at opposite ends of the city, our memories are somewhat different. I remember landing in a multicultural sprawl at the height of the miners strike, and decline of the steel industry. Eric was cloistered in one of the countries finest red brick universities on the edge of the Peak District.
We both have a lot of fond memories and we were keen to explore, although I couldn’t quite bring myself to get on the bus that used to cost me 6p a journey and venture back up Spittal Hill, under the Wicker Arches to Fir Vale because I knew that old Victorian workhouse cum hospital had grown even larger and and entered the 21 century. I loved nursing on a nightingale ward where the recuperating patients took the tea trolley around in the early morning whilst I as a second year nurse took responsibility for the whole ward overnight.
The Maplin building that nurtured Eric’s engineering skills was undergoing refurbishment and shrouded in scaffolding which was a disappointment. And the tower block accommodation had been demolished years ago to be replaced by more modern student digs. In fact Sheffield has become the place to be now for students. The old poly has become the Hallam university, and the whole city was awash with developement for the student population. Some buildings were striking in their contemporary design, but we did wonder how the mish mash of old and modern would weather the years and if all that glass and steel cladding would need replacing long before the red brick.
Sheffield centre has a vibrant open feel, There’s plenty of space to sit and people watch, the children are actively encouraged to play in the dancing fountain of the Peace Garden. There’s green planting all over the city and the Winter garden is a haven for those needing somewhere sheltered to eat their lunch.
Sadly we couldn’t avoid seeing the less fortunate than ourselves, the area around Victoria Quays is still being redeveloped and although the basin itself felt safe, we knew we weren’t far from the homeless, jobless and the addicts. And I wonder if the redevelopements do anything to help this segment of society, or does it just reduce the amount of dark corners that they can take some shelter in.