Nestled between the Ecclesall Road, with its trendy cafés full of yummy mummies and hipster students, and Clarkehouse Road, lined with accountants, solicitors and independent schools, is the Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Yet in the best socialist traditions of this part of South Yorkshire it is free to enter and has been since 1898.
The original Gardens were designed in 1835 by Robert Marnock. The idea of the gardens came from a group of local residents concerned about the lack of green space in what was then the highly industrialised town of Sheffield. They formed the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society in 1833 and were able to raise funding of £7,500 in order to buy an 18 acre site from a local snuff manufacturer and then commission a designer.
In its first year of opening in 1836 the Gardens opened to the general public for just four days but had 12,000 paying visitors. In order to gain admission at other times you needed to be a shareholder or annual subscriber. Although popular it was no surprise that with such limited opening times the finances of the Gardens began to suffer. By 1844 a new society had taken over and with came new ideas and new buildings.
By the end of the 19th century the Gardens were in trouble again. A number of free parks in Sheffield had been opened and so a garden requiring people to pay to enter was becoming unpopular. The Gardens were saved by the Sheffield Town Trust in 1898, who to this day are still the owners. They abolished the admission fees and in the process kept the Gardens opened until the Second World War.
With its steel factories and other heavy industry Sheffield was a prime target for bombing. One of the casualties was the Gardens. The extent of the damage and the repairs required was too much for the Sheffield Town Trust to pay for. In 1951 the Corporation of Sheffield, now Sheffield City Council, agreed to take on a lease for the Gardens for 99 years in return for a peppercorn rent.
The Gardens were resorted back to their former glory but the 1980s were not kind to Sheffield economically. With funding cuts across the city the Gardens took a hit as well. The Glass House fell into disrepair and the Gardens were in danger of being closed. With the advent of the National Lottery in 1994 there came a chance of funding through the a Heritage Lottery grant for restoration projects.
With funding of £5.06 million provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund the future of the Gardens looked bright. A further £1.22 million was raised through local appeals plus £0.41 million in volunteer and goodwill work. After nine years work the Gardens were finally restored in a style befitting its Victorian heyday.
Today it remains a garden for all seasons. Autumn colours of orange, yellow and red are prominent in the trees. On the ground seasonal colour is provided by autumn cyclamen and blue flowered sage.
Looking further to the ground there is also fungi both growing on its own and clinging to trees for support and nourishment.
With such a mild September there are still a few traces of summer in the Gardens. Blacked-eyed Susan flowers with slightly weathered petals.
A tall meadow provides a late feast for pollen hungry bees.
You shouldn't forget the herbaceous borders. It provides a focal point for the garden and with its many benches a popular area for people watching.
The Gardens are split into a number of sections. From the main entrance on Clarkehouse Road you can see the Victorian Garden. It is laid out in a formal manner with its displays changed twice a year. At the moment it is filled with begonias.
As a tribute to the Gardens' original designer The Marnock Garden was opened in 1988. Behind the walled entrance you'll find plants to delight all the senses.
Dark red berries are in contrast...
...to the delicate pink of fuchsias.
In many ways the Sheffield Botanical Gardens is an eclectic collection of gardens with inspiration gathered from both near and far. The ponds in the Rock and Water Garden are surrounded with plants native to the Pennines.
Yet in the far corner is the Mediterranean Climate Garden. Its southerly aspect and situation means it is protected from cold winds. There are not just plants from Europe but from the world's other Mediterranean regions including parts of California, Chile, South Africa and Australia.
Perhaps the famous part of the Gardens are the Glass Pavilions. It formed a large part of the recent restoration and was reopened in 2003 by HRH Prince of Wales. The skyline differs somewhat to the 1830s when they were originally built. The eagle-eyed of you may be able to spot the yellow Yorkshire Air Ambulance over the top of the nearby Hallamshire Hospital.
Inside the Grade II* listed Pavilions it is home to plants from around the world which thrive in this temperate environment. The excited Victorian plant hunter would have been thrilled to find a place to grow aspidistras from Japan and cacti.
It's not just plants and trees you will find in the Gardens. Greedy squirrels are all around feasting on beech nuts.
When the Gardens were originally opened the Bear Pit did indeed contain two bears for the pleasure of the Victorian public. Tragically in 1870s a child climbed the railings, fell in and was killed. The bears were obviously removed.
Not all the animals found in the Gardens are wild. Something has definitely caught the eye of this feline fiend. It should be noted he had three bells on his collar!
With a cat in the Gardens it only serves as a timely reminder that we are in the middle of Sheffield next to streets of houses and urban living.