Thursday, 18 September 2014

Urban Green Spaces - The Winter Gardens, Sheffield

I have always lived in cities whether it is in the suburbs or right in the centre. It's not that I don't like the countryside as I escape out to it as much as possible. It's just that the rural life isn't for me as I'm a practical soul at heart. Within 15 minutes walk of where I live I can get the children to school, visit the doctor's and dentist's, jump on public transport which runs frequently and with a large shopping centre thrown in with supermarkets, banks and a library I'm sorted.
Despite the large number of studies done on the subject it doesn't take a genius to work out that green spaces are vital for wellbeing for those living in densely populated, built-up environments. Wherever we are there pockets of breathing spaces with trees, plants, flowers and grass all teaming with human, animal and insect life. They could be a private back garden, a large public park or a hidden path leading to woodland. So when I find these spaces I'm going to explore them.
I've been living in Sheffield for 17 years now. Unlike other major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, Sheffield hasn't had the benefit of major regeneration plans that they have enjoyed. It's not to say the city has stood still but in many ways the effects of the loss of the much of steel and mining industries is still being felt. When I first came to Sheffield behind the magnificent Town Hall was an extension known in rather derogative terms as 'The Eggbox'. It was designed to last for 500 years but after just 25 years it was pulled down as part of the Heart of the City project. In its place was built two large glass based buildings. One is the St. Paul's Hotel and the other is The Winter Gardens.
When it was opened to the public in late 2002 it was the largest glasshouse in any European city centre. It measures 70 metres long, 22 metres wide and 22 metres high. One of the failures of the design of the old Town Hall extension was it allowed very little natural light in. Obviously this is not a problem now.
There are two entrances to The Winter Gardens, which by the way is completely free of charge to enter. At the Pinstone Street entrance the plants are grouped by those which are drought-tolerant as this is the sunnier end of the glasshouse. Here you will find cacti, aloe vera plants and palms.
At the northern end there are tree ferns and other shade lovers. Despite the differences in conditions required this is all one large space. The north/south positioning of the The Winter Garden does much of the work itself. The temperature is managed naturally through the opening and closing of roof vents plus through the use of high level fans to circulate the air.
This isn't just about green plants; there is always room for a splash of colour. Throughout the year bedding plants are changed. One of the appeals of The Winter Gardens is that whatever the weather it remains a sanctuary from the outside world. In front of The Winter Gardens is The Peace Gardens which is a favourite for children on hot summer days with its fountains and in recent years the city beach. On a grey, rainy day though much of its appeal is lost.
When I have taken the children into Sheffield I have taken a packed lunch with us just so we can eat it in The Winter Gardens. It has become a popular spot for all manner of people on their lunch breaks. A chat with a friend, the lone coffee drinker, the smart phone swiper and the avid book reader – the city library is located at the back of The Winter Gardens. In April and early May it is now taken over by the BBC as part of its coverage for the World Snooker Championships. In keeping with its original aims there are no tickets required to watch and the free flow of the building is maintained.
Along with the plants there are also sculptures and other art installations. Some are permanent while others have come and gone. The Winter Gardens also provides an entrance to the Millennium Gallery. This is a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions featuring both historical and contemporary art, craft and design collections. Fittingly one of the permanent galleries is The Ruskin Collection based on the original selection collated by the Victorian scholar John Ruskin, which was housed in Sheffield. He originally established the collection in order to inspire the workforce of Sheffield. I'm sure he would have approved of the Winter Gardens.
Where are your favourite urban green spaces? Do you have somewhere in a city to escape to?




Manneskjur

39 comments:

  1. What an incredible looking place! Sheffield is one of my daughters Uni options so I may even get to visit one day!

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    1. With two universities Sheffield is very student orientated. Come up and see us!

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  2. I can see why it's such a popular place to visit. I would love to have somewhere like that to head for. Actually, Birmingham has had major renovation, you're right, but in terms of it's gardens-the botanical one's aren't free to enter at all. And many places that used to be free (or nominal charge) which are council run are now charging. I assume it's because of the financial crisis but I can't help feeling it makes us poorer in other ways as it makes accessing them more difficult.

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    1. Sheffield has some amazing green spaces which are free entry. The Moor area has been undergoing regeneration for years and new indoor market opened last year. However there are still huge gaps where buildings have been pulled down and large retail units which remain empty. A long way to go yet!

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  3. This looks like a great place to visit. I used to live in the countryside but now live in a town. I also like having the practical things nearby. Living at least a 30 minute drive from the nearest town used to be a pain, especially in the winter when we needed food! It is great to see that there are places like this to visit.

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    1. I think I always have that fear of being cut off by snow and it does snow very heavily in Sheffield!

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  4. How lovely is that - I've never been to Sheffield before but I wouldn't have expected something like this x x

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    1. It really is a super addition to the city centre.

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  5. What a great space! Looks like a green oasis :) I've moved from a town to a village and you definitely don't have the convenience of everything around you - we are lucky to have a village shop a few doors down which is a godsend!

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    1. I love the idea of having green space all around but I don't like the idea of having to get into the car to go anywhere. Many days our car just sits on the drive.

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  6. This is so cool. I have never been a city person and love green. Sheffield is one of the greenest cities in the UK

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    1. It is indeed and the only city to have a National Park within its boundaries.

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  7. This is the kind of place I love to visit and spend hours just watching everything x

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    1. It's a great place to go people watching.

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  8. That's amazing! Can't believe I've never been in there. I'm a city girl like you too, lived in Sheffield a long while ago :)

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    1. There has been a few changes in recent years of which this addition is one of the best.

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  9. Such a beautiful looking place, My daughter has Sheffield down as one of her Uni choices so might even get to visit it. Thanks for sharing xx

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    1. I had Sheffield on my list too and I got invited to the open day for the School of Journalism but they cancelled it and I lost my money on the train ticket I had bought. I never accepted their offer for a place after that!

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  10. Oh wow that looks like such a lovely place. Ideal to go and sit peacefully and have a chat

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  11. I am going to tell my hubby about this as we are only about 45 mins away from this place.x

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  12. What a beautiful structure! I have a friend in Sheffield, i'll have to swing by next visit.

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  13. I've never been to Sheffield! will defo have this on my list if we do! x

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  14. Such a great place! I am a country girl at heart though x

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  15. Wow what a lovely place to visit. I am only about 40 minutes away from Sheffield x #HDYGG

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  16. How great that they created that space in the center for all to enjoy for free. We don't have anything like that here, although Southampton is huge I think it's seen as being 'next to' the New Forest and therefore green spaces aren't needed in the center as much. Such a shame.
    Looks like a great place for a packed lunch! Thanks for sharing again this week, I always come away form your posts having learnt something - really interesting x

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    1. I write to educate! When I lived in Southampton city centre I used to go down to the old town to the Medieval Merchant's House or Town Quay to escape. Occasionally I would make the trek up The Avenue to the Common but otherwise it was all shops and pubs.

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  17. I love the structured roof. I've never been to Sheffield, it's definitely on my list of places to visit.

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  18. What a fantastic structure.... And the plants are great too!

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  19. I need to know where Sheffield is and if its near I need to go here! Those plants in there are local to my country and I miss them and I want to see them! Amazing place.

    I too loves the countryside every once in a while but coming from the city in the Philippines I get depress if I don't see people and building and malls and not hear noise. I need these urban elements to live. And I wish that we have a structure like this here that incorporates plants to our everyday urban life.

    #hdygg

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  20. That looks so beautiful, and a wonderful place to wander into in the middle of a city.

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  21. Wow, what an amazing looking place! I am like you and prefer to live in the city - precisely because you find places like this. Makes me want to visit Sheffield. Soon!!

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  22. Wow what a lovely place to go to when the weather isn't great and we fast approaching those days :(

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  23. Wow looks like an amazing place to visit.

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  24. It is so nice to find a green spot in the middle of a city. Breaks the humdrum nicely.

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  25. I do like the mix of sculptures and greenery - would not have thought you had taken those photographs in the middle of a city though!

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  26. looks like a great place to visit

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  27. We visited here a couple of years ago and it was stunning

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