Thursday, May 8, 2014

Living like a local in Sheffield

I'm thrilled to share today's post on living like a local in Sheffield, England - it comes to us from the lovely Carolyn Waudby of Cafes to Contemplate. And, if you like what you've been reading throughout this series, consider submitting a piece about your hometown. I'd love to see it!

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I grew up near Sheffield, in the United Kingdom, and moved back 20 years ago, when the city centre was being dug up to lay its Supertram system. It’s known for the friendliness of its people – and after marrying a Sheffielder I put down roots and stayed. One of the great things about Sheffield is the fact it’s a well-kept secret. Even though it’s England’s fourth largest city, many people in the U.K have never visited. I’m happy to sing its praises and dispel some of the myths. 

Once dubbed The Steel City, Sheffield’s location between seven hills at a point where five rivers converge, made it perfect for metalworking.Heavy industrial pollution meant it was also affectionately known as ‘an ugly picture in a beautiful frame’ – a reference to its location on the edge of The Peak District National Park.

Today, I would describe it as a beautiful picture in a beautiful frame. It’s emerged from the closure of its heavy industries in the 1980s to become centre for creativity in film and digital game making - while keeping its reputation for metalwork in the form of small silver workshops. Investment in the centre means you can stroll in open public squares and large, paved areas among fountains, sculptures, public art and award-winning buildings.

Since the arrival of popular music, Sheffield has also produced cutting- edge musicians – Joe Cocker, The Human League, ABC, Def Leppard, Pulp and recently The Arctic Monkeys. Hollywood actor Sean Bean was raised here and regularly returns to watch his team Sheffield United, nicknamed The Blades.


Eating & Drinking 


Breakfast in the trendy bar of The Showroom independent cinema (http://showroomworkstation.org.uk) – a striking 1920s black and white building just up the hill from the train station in The Cultural Industries Quarter.

On the way, look right and up, at the wall of the concrete tower that forms part of Sheffield Hallam University – you’ll see a poem by former poet laureate Andrew MotionAnd if you face back towards the station you’ll be greeted with a painted mural of Harry Brearley – the Sheffielder who invented stainless steel.



Harry Brearley's mural


Or venture further uphill and across the dual carriageway to the glass-fronted café at The Millennium Gallery. Feast on a traditional English breakfast including local pork sausage, back bacon and free range eggs with Taylor’s of Harrogate tea, before visiting the Recording Britain exhibition – paintings commissioned in 1939 and now held by the V&A to capture the landscape and buildings of the country before bombing would destroy them.

Adjoining the gallery is the award-winning Winter Garden – Europe’s largest city centre botanical garden – a great place to eat sandwiches or grab a drink at Zoobie’s coffee counter.


Sheffield's vibrant winter garden


Serious coffee heads should venture off the main route before reaching the gallery, onto Arundel Street and Sellers Wheel – a stylish New Zealand café with a ‘brew bar’ and exceptional bean roaster, offering single origin coffees produced using either ‘pour over’ or ‘aeropress’ techniques. Parent company Tamper runs another, smaller cafe on Westfield Terrace, off West Street, en route to The University of Sheffield.


Sellers Wheel Cafe



Shopping


Sheffield’s high street stretches in a long, thin line from the cathedral, along Fargate, Pinstone Street and The Moor. One of the country’s top John Lewis branches is at the top of Barker’s Pool, opposite The City Hall – a grand, stone building with columns dating from the 1920s, now a music and events venue. 


City Hall


Debenham’s on The Moor is a destination for designer clothes at affordable prices, selling names such as John Rocha, Betty Barclay and Matthew Williamson. Atkinson’s further down the street is a traditional, family-run department store.


Fargate Street, one of Sheffield's central shopping neighborhoods


Beyond Atkinson’s at the bottom of The Moor is the just-opened, indoor Moor Market with 190 stalls. Look out for the bottled beer shop where you can pick up foreign beers or brews from independent Yorkshire breweries – great for gifts – and the Jamaican and Russian cafes.

But for independent boutiques and alternative shops, Division Street and Devonshire Green are the places to go. A favourite of mine is Collard & Manson – folk-goth clothing and jewellery and ethnic objects such as cushions and candle holders. I bought a favourite pair of crystal-studded skull and crossbow earrings by Vivienne Westwood here.


Brunch & Lunch


While in that part of town, lunch at The Forum café bar  overlooking a skateboard park that reminds me of the Park Guell in Barcelona. I recommend the home-made pies and peas – especially the chicken and leek - all for under a tenner.


Arts & Culture


If shopping isn’t your bag, visit one of the city’s many museums. Kelham Island and Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet are both personal favourites, showing how cutlery making began and was carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries.

At the hamlet on Abbeydale Road you can walk around a cluster of Grade I listed stone buildings with steelmaking contents strewn around as if the workers had just downed tools for lunch.

Kelham Island, meanwhile, is redbrick complex built on a 900-year-old, man-made island in the middle of the river Don, which contains a giant, working steam engine plus original Little Mesters workshops where scissors and knives were hand manufactured.

The mighty engine is run on the hour and you can hear its deafening boom almost half a mile away - a well-known sound for Sheffielders who lived and worked in that part of town in the city’s steel heyday.

Once you’ve developed an appetite, head down London Road for an evening meal. You can eat your way around the world, with Chinese and Asian restaurants dominating. Look for the ones where the local Chinese families are eating – always the best. At Dim Sum you can enjoy a sort of Chinese tapas, ordering a number of small dishes rather than one main one.

Then take in live music at either The Leadmill in the city centre, or The Greystones pub in the suburb of Ecclesall to round off with a true Sheffield experience.

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Carolyn Waudby is a journalist, poet and lecturer, who lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, U.K. She writes travel features for newspapers and magazines and blogs about independent cafes @ www.cafestocontemplate.com

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