Today Tigger has another courier run, this one to Sheffield. I had to miss her recent Liverpool trip but I am able to go on this one even though, as usual, we have to travel up separately for reasons of cost.
By the time the trip was confirmed and we could buy the tickets, the trains were already nearly full. Tigger, travelling early in the morning had to pay a high price for her ticket. I thought I wouldn’t be able to go but as we turned away to leave the ticket office, the clerk found a cheaper ticket for me.
We get a lot of trips to Sheffield and I am used to leaving from St Pancras and travelling direct. This time I can’t be choosy and I have to leave from King’s Cross and change at Retford. The earliest train I could get with a cheap ticket is the 10:10. All being well, I will arrive in Sheffield time for lunch.
As I write this aboard the train, Tigger has reached Sheffield and sent me a picture of the conditions there: sunny but frosty.
Peterborough and Grantham come and go and the sun continues shining from a clear blue sky. It feels cold even in the train so what must it be like outside? I see a few sheep grazing and feel rather sorry for them, an impression increased by the sight of horses wearing coats.
I reach Retford at 11:43 and look around for information about the Sheffield train. Sheffield is not mentioned anywhere. The ticket clerk had printed out journey details so I know my train leaves at 12:03. The departures board shows a train departing at 12:03 from platform 3, so I decided to go to that platform where there is perhaps clearer information.
Platform 3 is a long walk from the main part of the station. If it were not for the frequent signs you would think you had lost your way.
When I at last reach the platform, the indicator board gives no details. It merely indicates a train to Adwick. Where the heck is Adwick? There is a timetable posted in the shelter and the timings match those I was given. There is also a map of the route showing Sheffield. But this map doesn’t mention a place called Adwick. The route terminates at Meadowhall. I look around but there is no one in railway company uniform to ask.
When the one-coach train arrives, it has “Adwick” on the front. It takes an act of faith to go aboard. We depart and the ticket inspector clips my ticket. I take that as confirmation that wherever Adwick1 may be, this train does go to Sheffield, which we reach 46 minutes later.
An unusual touch: as we file off the train, the driver stands in the doorway of his cab and says goodbye to each customer individually. “Goodbye, sir,” he says to yours truly with a polite smile.
Reunited with Tigger, I find Sheffield bathed in winter sunlight. The famous water feature sparkles in the low-angle light and I must admit it is beautiful seen thus.
We headed, as we usually do, for the Museum’s Millennium Gallery and, more specifically, to the Restaurant on the ground floor. This pleasant venue offers us an irresistible attraction: Vegetarian Fish and Chips (the “fish” is deep-fried battered halloumi cheese – delicious!) for lunch.
Afterwards we went into the gallery for a leisurely tour of the works on display. The current exhibition is Restless Times: Art in Britain 1914-1945.
On previous visits, we saw a lot of building work going on in the city and it now seems to have come to fruition.
We had seen this tower at various stages in its construction and now, finished, it seems to rival the Heron Tower in Bishopsgate.
We left the Gallery by the Winter Garden which is very fine and offers an attractive space wherein to linger, especially in cold weather.
On the steps of the Winter Garden we met the Thin Man (that’s my name for him – I don’t know any other), which I rather like, despite my somewhat tetchy tastes in modern art.
Usually, we have a good walk around Sheffield and perhaps take a bus ride in order to explore less familiar parts, but today we felt it was too cold for that, despite the sunlight. Soft southerners, eh?
We therefore went along to another favourite venue of ours, the Graves Gallery, which shares the building with the public library.
The stairwell of the Graves Gallery both draws me and repels me. The Gallery was built is 1934 which is no doubt the reason why the hand-rail is so low. This makes me nervous but, equally, I cannot resist looking over the balustrade.
The artwork that occupies the stairwell is Blue Bird (2007) by Seiko Kinoshita, and is inspired by the thought of blue birds flying up towards the skylight.
We had open train tickets and could have stayed on as long as we wished but by now, about 4:30 pm, we felt we had done enough and so turned towards the station.
We missed the first train by a couple of minutes and caught the 16:27. All went well until we reached Leicester. There the train just sat in the station. We guessed there was something wrong when two uniformed British Transport Police officers came aboard and walked the length of the train with a pair of agitated passengers.
Eventually, an announcement was made that there had been a “serious incident” necessitating the presence of the police. Half an hour later, we were allowed to resume our journey.
Even though the visit had been a relatively short one, and there had been problems with my journey in both directions, it was a good day out. It is always a pleasure to visit Sheffield which is a beautiful and dynamic city. It has thrown off the image of a dark and dirty industrial town though some of us remember even that incarnation of Sheffield with affection.
Thomas Boulsover 1705-1788
inventor of Old Sheffield Plate
1“Adwick” is apparently the village of Adwick upon Dearne, near Doncaster. Why the railway company is so shy of admitting that it sends trains there, I have no idea.