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Travel

Sheffield: Forging a bright new future

Once the centre of the steel industry, Sheffield is fast becoming a cultural and tourism powerhouse. Greg-Mattocks-Evans offers some tips on where to go and what to do in his adoptive city.

Sheffield was once an industrial powerhouse, internationally renowned for the steel forged in the factories that once dominated the city.

Now most of the chimneys have gone (although the Sheffield steel trade does still exist) but the city has forged itself into something new- a modern metropolis with a friendly yet independent spirit.

In recent years, the city has undergone extensive redevelopment, allowing it to build on a proud sporting and artistic heritage. It is the home of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, and its vibrant music scene has produced the likes of Joe Cocker, Jarvis Cocker (no relation), Arctic Monkeys, the Human League, and ABC.

The impressive civic buildings in the city centre are reminders of Sheffield's proud industrial past and the time when, under one-time council leader David Blunkett, it was known as athe Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, but this is a city that does not stand still for long, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Kelham Island district. Once part of the beating heart of Sheffield's steel industry, as recently as ten years ago this area was still full of vacant warehouses, factories and workshops. Now it is filled with stylish residences, ecekectic businesses and a diverse range of restaurants.

But the heritage of the area is not forgotten. At the centre of it all is the Kelham Island Industrial Museum, showcasing artefacts from the city's manufacturing past, from the Victorian era to the present day. A particular highlight is the River Don Engine, which is claimed to be the most powerful working steam engine in Europe. Kelham Island is also and are that is worth visiting for any ale lover, with seven excellent pubs all within walking distance of each other.

The Fat Cat on Alma Street has an open policy on its taps that has seen nearly 8000 different beers pulled in the past 30 years. It's cosy in the winter and boasts a beer garden that is full of character in the summer.

The Kelham Island Tavern is also worth a visit; it was voted best Yorkshire pub of the year in 2015 and it is a real ale-lovers paradise. Just make sure you watch your language when you visi- the pub runs a "no-swearing" policy.

The Shakespeare pub, on Gibralter Street, is also part of he real ale circuit between Kelham Island and Sheffield city centre, serving real ales and continental lagers. And it's not just Kelham Island that makes Sheffield a beer mecca. In 206, a report carried out by the University of Sheffield showed that Sheffield has one brewery for every 23,991 people- 4.7 times more brewers per capita than Greater London

In the evening you are blessed with a choice of cultural activities to choose form. Sheffield Theatres is the largest theatre complex outside London, comprising the Crucible Theatre, Lyceum theatre and Crucible Studio. Across all three ou will find a variety og homegrown and touring productions, with everything from West End musicals to cutting edge drama.

In particular the Crucible Theatre, while renowned for its in-house productions is also famous as the host venue for the World Snooker Championships, played over April and May each year. It's a great time to visit the city, when the city centre goes "snooker loopy" and you're never far from spotting a current or leaving the Crucible arena.

Each year the BBC bases its studio inside the Winter Garden, a striking oasis of greenery right in the city centre. As one of the largest temperate greenhouses in the UK it is home to more than 2500 plants from around the world and is the perfect place to unwind with a spot of coffee or a light lunch at Zooby's coffee bar and deli situated within the gardens. 

From the winter Garden you can see the Metalwork Collection. This contains a selection of the cutlery, flatware (forks and spoons) and hollow ware (bowls, teapots and containers) that has made Sheffield famous around the world. Also within the Gallery is the Ruskin Collection, a selection of artefacts, engravings, birds and flowers gifted to the workers of Sheffield by the Victorian writer to inspire creativity.

It's not just the Winter Gardens where you'll be surrounded by flora and fauna. Sheffield is now one of the greenest cities in the UK with more trees per person than anywhere else in Europe and roughly 60 percent of the city is given over to woodland, parks or public gardens.

Perhaps the most striking of these is the Botanical Gardens. Spread across 19 acres of land it has 13 distinct garden areas that are well worth exploring- particularly if you come across the old bear pit complete with a friendly looking bear statue welcoming visitors inside. The crown jewel of the Gardens is the 90 metre long glass roofed pavilion full of plants from all around the world.

If you would prefer to indulge in some retail therapy Sheffield has the Meadowhall Shopping Centre three miles north-east of the city centre, which boasts some 230 stores, 50 eateries and an 11 screen cinema, but for something a bit different, there is a plethora of independent and quirky shops to be explored. These can mainly be found on Ecclesall Road and Division Street- where, if you  look carefully, you can see a blue plaque marking the spot where local musical icon Jarvis Cocker fell out of a window whilst trying to impress a girl at a party.

Sheffield then is a multi-faceted city. It may still be the Steel County but it has become so much more than that in recent years- and it shines all the better for it.

Kelham Island Industrial Museum: Alma Street Sheffield S3 8RY. Open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm and Sunday, 11am to 4.45pm. Admission £6, £5 concessions, under 16s free. Website: www.simt.co.uk/kelhamisland-museum tel: 0114 272 2106. The River Don engine is in steam from Monday to Thursday at 12pm and 2pm, and on Sundays at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm.

Sheffield Theatres: For information on current productions go to the website: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or tel: 0114 249 5999, box office: 0114 249 6000.

The Winter Garden: Clarkehouse Road, Broomhall, Sheffield S10 2LN, are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 7.45 pm, weekends and Bank Holidays from 10am to 7.45pm from April to September and Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, weekends and Bank holidays from 10am to 4pm October to March. Admission is free. Website: www.sbg.org.uk

Weston Park Museum: Open Monday to Saturday and Bank Holidays from 10am to 5pm, Sundays 11am to 4pm. Admission is free. Website www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/museums/weston-park/home

The countryside on your doorstep

Outside the city you don't have to go far to be out into the unspoiled beauty of the Peak District; a short 15 minute drive can take you from the city centre to the heart of the countryside.

Ladybower Reservoir is a perfect spot for a gentle walk and a picnic with striking views of the Derwent Dam. If you don't fancy a picnic the Ladybower Inn a mile or so up the road offers a menu full of hearty food, perfect for warming both body and soul after a long walk. It's also dog-friendly, so if you're brought your four legged friend along they'll be welcome too.

if you prefer to cycle, the Monsal Trail is a accesible yet interesting  ride. Formerly a railway line, the tracks were converted into a traffic-free cycle way between 2010 and 2011 the eight and a half mile trail follows the river Wye from Blackwell Mill near Buxton to Bakewell.

I would recommend starting at Blackwell Mill and, if you haven't brought your own bike, make sure you book ahead and hire one. As you fly thorough lit tunnels, between steep gorges and across the spectacular Monsal Dale viaduct you'll eventually wind up at the picturesque town of Bakewell where you can hop off and stretch your legs.

The Monsal Trail: For more information fo to : www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/trails/monsaltrail, tel: 01629 816 200. There are cycle hire centres near Ashbourne town centre, Parsley Hay on the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road and Derwemt right next dorr to Fairholmes visitor centre at Derwent.

Ladybower Inn: On the A57, Bamford, Hope Valle S33 0AX, tel: 01433 651 241. website: www.ladybower-inn.co.uk Open every day 8am to 11pm,, food served between 8am and 9pm.

Forty Years of Snooker at the Crucible

On visiting the Crucible Theatre it is striking just how intimate it is as a sporting venue. As you sit and watch the match unfurl you are never anything less than gripped by the battle of wits and skill going on below you on the green baize.

Sheffield and snooker have been synonymous pretty much since the first World Snooker championship tournament was held at the Crucible in 1977, and where it has been held ever since. A wealth of sporting drama has played out within its walls, from the 1985 final when Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor kept the nation on tenterhooks, to Ronnie O'Sullivan's quickfire maximum break in 1997. more than 40,000 tickets are sold for the tournament each year and it is watched by a global audience off 200 million people across 89 different countries. If you visit Sheffield during the World Snooker Championship and can't get a ticket for a session you can always venture own to Tudor Square just outside the theatre and soak up the atmosphere.

Snooker is now part of Sheffield's DNA and it is likely to remain so, with the championship confirmed to be held at the Crucible for the next ten years.

World Snooker Championship: Box Office: 0844 6565 147 (calls cost 5p per minute plus the phoone company's access charge), website: www.cruciblesnooker.com

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