Sheffield and Heeley

As usual, Tigger has taken the early train, leaving me to catch up later with my off-peak ticket. We keep in touch via the IM (instant messenger) function on our Blackberry phones. Thus, as my train sets out from St Panras, I know that Tigger has left Derby and will soon reach Sheffield. I am due there myself at 11:52.

I left home with time to walk to the station but checked the indicator at the bus stop and waited for the 214 which dropped me in front of the station with 20 minutes to spare.

Sheffield trains leave from the upper level of St Pancras
Sheffield trains leave from the upper level of St Pancras

Sheffield trains leave from the upper level of St Pancras which is also where the Eurostar platforms are. The Eurostar service is self-contained and segregated from the rest but we often encounter francophone train staff in their characteristic navy blue costume with the yellow Eurostar logo emblazoned on it. We also meet them in the local cafes enjoying a “full English breakfast”!

My train has left on time. Reserved seats are obligatory on this service and an announcement instructed us to sit in our assigned seats. I preferred an unreserved seat at the end of the carriage, however, and the ticket inspector has not remarked on the fact.

A pause at Loughborough
A pause at Loughborough

The weather is dull and the sky overcast but it is not raining at least. Strange how a few drops of water can conspire to spoil an outing. Knowing that temperatures are likely to be lower in the north (and having read of snow on blogs in the region), I have reverted to my winter wear: longjohns and my thick red fleece jerkin. I have also swapped my scarf for my “ninja”, as Tigger calls it, a sort of double-layed fleece collar that covers my neck and can be pulled up to cover my mouth.

The curved entry into Derby station
The curved entry into Derby station

As I am writing these words, we run out from under the heavy overcast into a region of lighter clouds with patches of blue sky between them. There is even a pale sunlight in places.

By the time we speed through Wellingborough, the sun is shining steadily and the sky is blue with only light cloud cover but Tigger, by now waiting for the FreeBee free bus in Sheffield, tells me it is freezing cold there. I was right to dress warmly.

Arriving at Chesterfield with its twisted spire
Arriving at Chesterfield with its twisted spire

At 10:23, Tigger tells me the job is done. She can go sightseeing until my train arrives at 11:52. I note that as we progress northwards, though the sun is still shining, patches of frost are becoming more common. The land is waterlogged too.

Sheffield's famous water feature, frozen in places
Sheffield’s famous water feature, frozen in places

When I rejoined Tigger at Sheffield, the sun was shining brightly but it was freezing cold, as she had told me. Literally, as it happens: parts of the famous water feature were frozen solid.

It used to be said that Sheffield was a “mucky picture in a golden frame”, meaning that the grimy industrial city was set in beautiful countryside. The beautiful countryside is still there but Sheffield itself is no longer mucky. Today it is a clean and handsome city.

Looking down Howard Street to the Cholera Monument on the hill
Looking down Howard Street to the Cholera Monument on the hill

Walking up Howards Street from the station, look back and you can see the Cholera Monument, commemorating the cholera outbreak of 1832 when at least 400 people died. The Duke of Norfolk provided land needed for burials and that that is where the memorial stands.

Sheffield's Millennium Gallery
Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery

As usual, our first call was at the cafe-restaurant in the Millennium Museum Gallery for a lunch of vegetarian fish and chips. (The “fish” is deep fried halloumi cheese – delicious!) After lunch, we set out for the bus station but a couple of sights caught our attention along the way.

"Heavy Plant" (1988) by David Kemp
“Heavy Plant” (1988) by David Kemp

In a car park, we came across this structure and, of course, went for a look. Knowing my opinion of much modern “art” you may be expecting some pejorative comments but I was intrigued by this piece perhaps because it contained some recognizable items. It is “Heavy Plant” by David Kemp.

Elements-Fire-Steel (1965) by Brian Asquith
“Elements-Fire-Steel” (1965) by Brian Asquith

Another piece, which seems like a strange logo or hieroglyph written by an alien race, is today sited on a wall of the Sheffield Hallam University. The direct sunlight somehow increased its appeal. (Did I say “appeal”? I must be becoming mellow in my old age!) It is “Elements-Fire-Steel” by Brian Asquith.

Towers and skyroglyphs
Towers and skyroglyphs

I also noticed that the beautiful blue winter sky was serving as a canvas for aircraft to write their own kind of hieroglyphs – or perhaps “skyroglyphs”?

Sheffield Bus Station
Sheffield Bus Station

Despite these distractions, we at last reached the bus station where Tigger scanned the timetables to find which bus would take us to Heeley. On her last visit, she had noticed that there was something at Heeley that she thought I would like to see. So off we went.

Heeley, welcoming... but freezing
Heeley, welcoming but freezing

Heeley was welcoming enough but was freezing cold, colder even than the city. There were stretches of frosty ground and most of the water we encountered was frozen. Nothing daunted, however, we pressed on.

Sheep, Heeley City Farm
Sheep, Heeley City Farm

We had come to see the Heeley City Farm, which also includes an environmental visitor centre. The young man we spoke to seemed disappointed that we didn’t want to see the environmental exhibits but – well, sorry – I had come to see the animals!

Brown goat

I am somewhat equivocal about city farms, which are often run in cramped conditions, but I think that a well run one can be a valuable asset to education, especially in an era when we hear that many school children apparently do not even know where milk comes from.


There were people about, but they seemed to be youngsters drafted in to help with the work. No one bothered us but, equally, no one offered to show us around or tell where things were. There was no sign of the advertised cafe.


I was glad to see that the inmates seemed comfortable and well fed. They were alert and curious, which is always a good sign. The goat on the right in the above photo took a determined lick at my handbag just to see what it tasted like!


There were not only sheep and goats, of course. We saw cows, horses, pigs and some chicks in a heated incubator.


The problem was that the lighting was poor and the animals active so it was hard to get photos that weren’t blurred, as you can see from the slightly blurred heifers above. I was not going to use flash and risk dazzling them.

Vegetable garden

There was also a vegetable garden though there was not much to see in it – not surprising, given the time of year.

A view from Myrtle Road, Heeley
A view from Myrtle Road, Heeley

We caught a bus in Myrtle Road, and this took us back to the centre of Sheffield. We were booked on the 15:47 train to St Pancras and had a little time to fill in before returning to the station.

Sun worshipper
Sun worshipper

A visit to the Graves Gallery in the Central Library building is usually a good way to spend some time but today it was closed. We went all the way up in the lift until we thought to read the notices posted everywhere! At least I had a chance to scare myself by looking down the deep stair well! (See Not the best way to go to Sheffield.) We made do with photographing this mysterious but attractive sculpture on the front of the building.

Tudor Square
Tudor Square

So we walked back up to Tudor Square and entered a certain coffee-vending establishment which you can no doubt make out in the photo. The elegant towers you can also see belong to the handsome Sheffield Town Hall.

Mirror with spoon frame
Mirror with spoon frame

In the coffee shop is this unusual mirror with a frame of spoons, made by and referring to Sheffield’s proud history as a city of steel and cutlery.

Having partaken of a beverage, we returned down the hill again via Howard Street to the station. As usual (because we have to buy tickets separately), our reserved seats were not together, but, as usual, we found a pair of unreserved ones and settled in comfortably for our journey back to St Pancras.

Modern Sheffield is a delightful city and I enjoy my visits there, finding that memories of the past are being enhanced by new discoveries and happy experiences in the present. Today’s highlight was seeing, photographing and touching the animals on the city farm but future visits will, I am sure, produce their own highlights.


Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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17 Responses to Sheffield and Heeley

  1. BFG says:

    Parts of the US are so cold today (20 degrees below zero – Fahrenheit!) that if a cup of liquid water is thrown into the air outdoors, it freezes solid before hitting the ground (we saw a demo). I’m happy to say that sunny SoCal is nowhere near that chilly.

    I too have my reservations about city farms, but maybe the interactions with animals other than cats and dogs that visitors get may do some good.

    I know that some of my happiest memories are of interactions with animals at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Marwell Zoological Gardens in years gone by. A friend of mine – sadly now passed on – was a head keeper and whenever I visited his family I used to go into work with him, long before the public were allowed in, and interact where possible (and safe!) with some of the animals under his care.

    I took photos too, but those may now have all been destroyed (had to leave them behind when I left the UK in ’95, and I gather they’ve all now succumbed to mold).

    Shame really. I’d recorded the reactions of a young Celebes ape as he discovered my wristwatch beneath the sleeve of my jumper (talk about anthropomorphising – I would swear the looks he gave me shrieked “What the freakin’ heck ARE you, guy?”), the time a young Celebes mother showed me her firstborn with evident pride, and the day one of the Celebes troop opportunistically stole the padlock to their enclosure and spent a couple of hours enthusiastically throwing it into the air and then scattering in case it landed on one of them.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The justification for city farms (apart from the enjoyment of having animal around for company) is their educational role.

      It would be good to have privileged access to a zoo with the opportunity to make more than passing contact with individual inmates.

  2. AEJ says:

    BFG is not kidding — it is downright freezing here in North Carolina tonight. Bitter, bitter cold. The kind of cold where you go outside and instantly regret it.

    I’ve never had halloumi cheese. I am intrigued.

    Your story of the children not knowing where milk comes from reminds me of my friend, who was born and raised here in North Carolina. Is that a slight on people born and raised in North Carolina? I believe it’s a slight on the education system here, for sure. My friend invited me to her party where they had a huge buffet of traditional Southern fried foods, including macaroni & cheese. She lamented to me about the fact that it’s so sad how many cows have to die for all that milk and cheese. I laughed, thinking she was making a lively joke. She was very serious.

    I’ve probably told that story before, but it’s worth telling again. And again. And again!

    • BFG says:

      There’s something odd about the education system in the US, I agree. Some years ago I was working as a contractor at one of the big Pharma and I was amazed to hear two colleagues discussing the nature of “lamb” as a meat. They were speculating as to which animal it came from – cow or pig…

      • SilverTiger says:

        It’s this sort of ignorance that makes meat-eating seem acceptable. It has often been said that if people had to kill their own meat the present ratio of meat-eaters to vegetarians would be reversed.

      • AEJ says:

        I wonder if those two were from North Carolina! 😉

        • BFG says:

          I have friends close to the border of North and South and they’re exceptionally smart and talented (not to say long suffering) 🙂

          Sadly, the two self-identifed as “Valley” girls (roughly equivalent, I think, to “Essex” girls in the UK). Friendly, outgoing, hard-working, but with some serious gaps in their basic world knowledge.

          • SilverTiger says:

            It seems that young people are being let down all over the world by governments who design curricula for ends other than education. Many can barely write their names or recall the name of the capital city of their country.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The ignorance of some people is quite staggering at times. It seems strange that people can spell and write grammatically (more or less) and do arithmetic yet not know that milk comes from cows and wool from sheep. Perhaps the education system takes too much for granted. It can no longer be assumed that parents teach children the basic facts about their world.

  3. WOL says:

    I’m sorry you did not have anyone to “explain” the animals to you. Looks like they may have some heritage breeds, or at least diverse breeds. I noted one sheep with a long tail. I think I read somewhere they dock them. because the wool gets all mucky — ! That mirror is interesting. All over spoons on the frame. Rather nice, actually, although I think I would have stuck the spoons on differently, in a more regular pattern. I like that building on the left in Tudor square, the one with the blue bits and the curved roof. It’s almost pretty in an Art Deco sort of way. I like the shade of blue. One thing I miss from when I was in Europe was the trains. I like riding in trains — the actual riding part — not the getting on and off and the hassle and schlepping things about. I think it’s a nice way to travel. I have memories of riding on a train with my dad to visit my aunt. We traveled on the Pullman coach and the porter came and made down our beds. Very exciting. I think I was about 4. It’s been cold here too – a bitter, dry cold — well below freezing every night for almost two weeks now — low 20’s F/7-10 C at night and in the low 50’s F/10’s C for highs — I went out today to get the mail and the wind was up and had a sharp edge to it! I got my mail and scampered back inside quickly.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I prefer travelling by train to driving (not that I have a car these days) but fares are set to increase, unfortunately, which may mean my train train rides becoming rarer.

      I’m not sure what the legal position is with regard to sheeps’ tails. I know there are two schools of thought, the dockers and the left-’em-alones.

      After a mild spell that fooled us into thinking the cold had at last eased, the temperature has fallen again. I don’t remember a winter when it was this cold for so long. I shall be looking forward to the return of the warmer weather.

  4. Reluctant Blogger says:

    I am very keen on goats. If I had more space I would definitely have a goat as it would cut the grass for me and be good (well, naughty actually) company.

    Like BFG I used to go to Marwell – it was always a friendly, hands-on type of place where you felt the keepers really knew the animals and were keen to talk to us about them.

  5. Mouse says:

    I work at Heeley City Farm!
    Our farm is an educational facility as well as a visitor centre; thousands of school children come here every year. We have a youth unit comprising of young adults who are having difficulties in mainstream school and come to the farm for a couple of days a week to have lessons and also be taught about how to care for the animals. Under supervision they do the vast majority of the animal care work. At weekends local kids volunteer to muck out and feed all our animals. The small animal house is looked after by the adults with disabilities who benefit greatly from the interaction they have with guinea pigs and the like.
    We do have an ongoing problem with signs – there are a number of wooden sign posts with directions to facilities like the cafe but they need repainting and we don’t always have enough bodies on the ground for repairs.
    Many of the animals we have are rare native farm breeds – we are working with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to become a rare breeds park farm at some point this year (2011).

    Feel free to uses flashes for photos by the way – most of the animals we have on the farm are very used to people and to being photographed Summer the goat will even pose for you a lot of the time!!

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thanks for your comments on the Heeley farm. I appreciate the difficulties that city farms face over both staffing and funding.

      With regard to flash, I never use this with animals (and preferably not with people either) because flash can cause serious discomfort (especially if the subject’s eyes are dark-adapted in a stable or barn, for example) and even damage. I would advise you, rather than tolerating flash, to put up notices asking visitors not to use it. Using flash close up to an animal is to risk injury to the animal’s eyes. Please do take this advice on board.

  6. Enzo Zirkle says:

    A big thank you for your blog article.Really thank you! Want more.

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