Sunday, 6 May 2018

Sheffield By The River & Up the Sky

It was a beautiful spring day in Britain so we decided to go for a walk, but instead of driving to the countryside we opted for the more urban alternative of the city we call home.

Sheffield is a metropolis of over 700,000 people but you wouldn't really know. It feels more like a big village where you always end up meeting friends and acquaintances by coincidence, except you don't call it a chance encounter, but a mere acknowledgement that in this city people strictly adhere to the Great British social class system, perhaps unknowingly.

Our destination was Kelham Island, recently named one of the coolest places in Britain and reached through the Shalesmoor tram stop from the bottom of our road. This is Sheffield's hipster capital - where modern architecture is building on the historical remains of the once thriving steel industry; where independent cafes, restaurants and local pubs happily thrive and where the local creative culture has found its home. This is a place we can easily find ourselves fitting in.

The massive regeneration project is very much evident. The residential development that boasts itself as 'a bit of Scandinavia in the hear of Yorkshire', posturing itself as an energy-efficient and low-carbon neighbourhood, is already partly occupied with people sticking Green Party logos on their windows and parking four-wheel drives in their garage, another Great British contradiction. Nevertheless, I am impressed and would happily imagine myself living there if only I have not given my heart fully to Hillsborough.

Amidst all this, the Kelham Island Museum stands, on a man-made island over 900 years old where it proudly tells the stories of the city's glorious industrial heritage and what it was like to live and work in Sheffield during the Industrial Revolution.

But true to its legacy, on the day we visited, it also told a story of how a typical British middle class family would spend a Saturday, watching or taking part in an urban cycling race!

Leaving Kelham Island behind us, we followed the course of the river and walked towards the city centre and found ourselves around the also recently regenerated West Bar, once a sh*thole of John's youthful memories. It looks pristine, which is rather a pleasant surprise when you are more used to the graffiti-strewn areas around the city centre.

But to get to the centre of town we had to go through the area where the old Castle Market used to be, now razed to the ground in preparation for a much-needed revamp. Without the market, it is still the same, therefore avoid if you can.

The tiny city centre was fully packed and beating (stock photo of Peace Gardens attached because otherwise Isaac would want to run around naked like all the other children in the water fountain and we didn't have time for that. I've also thrown in the photos of the city's skyline for good measure). The live music and the International food market was real-time though and we got ourselves our favourite Paella from the regular street market chef who came from Cordoba.

We noticed that the Big Wheel is back in business and set-up in front of the City Hall. For £14 (or £15 for a family of 4) we had a go and while suspended up in the air,  we were also able to fully appreciate our city from above.

It was still mid-afternoon when we finished the walk and took the tram back to Hillsborough where we capped the day off with a cup of tea and a little bit of sun in the garden.
It was a beautiful spring day in Britain, days that are few and far in between, and we had been out to embrace it. 

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