Book Club with Anna Caig
Literary City: The Sheffield Connection
“Sheffield punches above its weight in terms of creativity,” says Helen Moat, author of Bradt’s Slow Travel Peak District. “It's a city that encourages individuality. There’s something tough and practical about Sheffield people and, at the same time, it’s a place that encourages a spirit of independence.”
Moat lives in the Peak District, but she also finds inspiration for her writing here in the steel city. “Although I’m happiest in nature and in the countryside, I feel very lucky to live so close to the city.
I love the fact that I can be out walking in a quiet dale or on wild moorland and barely see anyone for hours, and yet, in less than an hour I can be in Sheffield.
“It’s my place to go when I need cultural inspiration, whether it’s being inspired by Sheffield’s superb street art, its theatre or music scene.
As a writer I need that cultural nourishment.
There is something about urban spaces that give me a buzz that’s quite different from being in nature.”
Slow Travel Peak District is a guide with a difference.
Moat explores well-known places, but also strays away from the crowds to uncover the hidden corners of the national park, from dales to abandoned mills, historical ruins, strange follies and irresistible pubs.
She investigates tasty, local food in atmospheric venues and locations, as well as giving advice on car-free travel which throws up a range of options: walking, cycling, boating, buses and trains - and some more unusual modes of transport as part of the sightseeing experience.
Moat was born in Northern Ireland and has lived in East Anglia, before making the move to the Peak District. “Once I settled in, I quickly developed a strong connection with this beautiful part of England.
Spending time by a reservoir, canal or dale river is relaxing and uplifting at the same time. Likewise on the higher reaches of moorland, there’s something about being buffeted by the wind while teetering on the edge of a cliff, the world falling away at your feet. It makes you feel alive.”
But she believes the rural landscape and the city complement each other when it comes to stimulating creativity. “I think that two-way relationship between city and countryside is important for a lot of local writers.
Cities are hubs for human creativity. Sheffield has got that in droves - and it;s great to see how it has gone from strength to strength since I moved up to the Peak District in late 1999.
I definitely need that human connection, and specifically, creative connection. It feeds my writing as much as the nature I write about.”