Favourite Things: A source of pleasure for countless generations

Alison Hunter in the Botanical Gardens
Alison Hunter in the Botanical Gardens

Alison Hunter first came to Sheffield in 1968 as a student to study geology. Her BSc degree led to a fulfilling career which included work both in South Africa and in Wyoming, USA.

After returning to Sheffield, she joined the Friends of the Botanical Gardens (FOBS), in January 2000, intending to learn about gardening and make new friends.

Sheffield University Firth Court

Sheffield University Firth Court

In 2006, Alison was asked to put together a booklet about the gardens’ history.

With the help of other FOBS members, she collected a huge amount of information. She and fellow-author Daniel King are publishing their first book Sheffield Botanical Gardens: a history Volume 1 (1826-1844), which will be launched at ‘Art in the Gardens’.

This event runs from 10.30am to 5.30pm on September 2 and 3; the book will be available at the FOBS stand. All proceeds and royalties will be donated to FOBS to support educational work in the Gardens.

Afterwards the book will be available at FOBS meetings; it can also be purchased for £15 from www.amazon.co.uk online.

The Gardens will be included in Heritage Open Days for the first time on Sunday September 10  and, Alison will be leading a history tour of the Gardens at 11.30am.

Botanical Gardens

Designed by the first curator Robert Marnock and opened in 1836, these gardens have been a source of pleasure for many generations of Sheffield people.

I appreciate the gardens as a peaceful place to relax and to socialise at FOBS meetings.

It is also a place to learn about plants, to discover something new and to share that knowledge by leading visitors on tours.

With the opening of the Dorothy Fox Education Centre in March of this year, it is hoped that more people will come to appreciate the treasures of the gardens.

Sheffield Library

Sheffield Local Studies Library has been a source of a great deal of information and the assistance of the librarians cannot be praised too highly.

Staff at Sheffield Archives in Shoreham Street have also been very helpful. The beautiful Art Deco building of the Central Library is a much-loved haunt and the Graves Gallery upstairs is a source of inspiration.

Weston Park Museum

Weston Park was also designed by Robert Marnock, although at a much later date; it opened in 1875. The Museum exhibits demonstrate the various aspects of Sheffield industry, history, social life, art, archaeology and the natural environment.

I also enjoy working as a volunteer for the Natural History Curator, Alistair McLean, cataloguing the rocks, minerals and fossils in the museum store.

Five Weirs Walk

Many of the shareholders who supported the Botanical Gardens were steelmakers so, as someone interested in the history of Sheffield and the Don Valley, I regard this as an essential experience.

Information boards add fascinating details of previous activities along the route. Stretching from the city centre to Meadowhall this is a very pleasant walk along the river. After refreshments you could, if feeling fit, complete a circular tour by walking back along the canal. An alternative is to take the tram back to town and tackle the canal another day.

University of Sheffield

As an alumna, I was delighted to re-engage with the university, yet somewhat saddened that the Geology Department had been closed. Krebs Café in the historic Firth Court is ideal for a cup of tea and a snack. There are many other places to eat around the university and another favourite is the Diamond Kitchen in the strikingly modern Diamond Building.

South East Sheffield

I live near Mosborough and enjoy walking to Crystal Peaks shopping centre along the Ochre Dyke path, one of several nature trails around Owlthorpe.

Nearby Renishaw Hall and its Gardens is a fascinating place to explore.

The Phoenix Inn at Ridgeway serves excellent food in a welcoming atmosphere and has been the venue for special family events on several occasions.