A Victorian city oasis originally designed by its first curator Robert Marnock horticulturist and landscaper, which first opened its gates to the public in 1836 is still inspiring and educating generations of families. Even in winter months this gem can capture the imagination, the gardens are planted with unusual species from around the world including well known and rare British species all planted with care for their colour, resilience or beauty. The outstanding setting incorporates inspiring art installations as well as the stunning 90-metre-long renovated grade II listed glass pavilion which has been renovated to exacting standards using thousands of panes of hand blown glass. Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens boast many different areas to discover on your visit, the beautiful rose gardens, prairie, evolution, Asia, rock & water, a riddle trail (one of my personal favorites,) a bear pit, and also a fossilized stump of a giant Lycopod tree which would have flourished 300 million years ago. Robert Marnock the horticulturalist and landscape designer was known for his gardenesque style where the design incorporates winding pathways and planted mounds, I find this method of design interesting to explore since I’m not sure what delight will be around the next bend. There are at least 13 different specialist areas to discover. I soon discovered the delightfully friendly squirrels who make the gardens their home, it seems they are accustomed to human contact and although we had no food with us whatsoever they still came to us when we called, as did the pigeons. Almost a scene from Cinderella! It’s well known that I adore all kinds of wildlife so as you might imagine I spent way too much time with the lovely but maybe overweight squirrels. ☺ (Note, feeding of the wildlife here is not permitted.) A wide range of hot and cold refreshments are available at the Curators House Restaurant and Café including fresh home baked cakes, all food is freshly prepared on the premises, from lighter bites such as toasties or jacket potatoes to more filling meals such as Sunday roasts. I’m happy with a simple cuppa and a slice of home baked cake or a yummy mug of frothy coffee! The Sheffield Botanical Gardens grade II listed pavilion is a hot house planted from all kinds of plant species from countries such as Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean and Asia. This beautifully refurbished Victorian pavilion is fascinating; the kids can see firsthand the types of plants they use in products daily for instance Tea tree oil, bananas, tea bushes from china and many more. I could spend hours in the hot house just browsing through the different plant species especially the giant cacti. The glass pavilion’s central dome can be booked as a wedding venue for your wedding ceremony and the stunning grounds used for your wedding photos. I honestly can’t think of a lovelier, more romantic venue for a wedding ceremony or location for a wedding photo shoot. The Victorian Horticulturalist and landscaper, Robert Marnock 1800 – 1889 is well known for his earlier work at Bretton Hall West Yorkshire and was first appointed to design and lay out the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in 1833 on a salary of £100 per year. He later went on to lay out the Royal Botanic Society gardens at Regent Park, London in 1839 where he became curator. Other examples of his work are Avenue House, Finchley, North London, once owned by Henry Charles Stephens, Ink magnate. The house and gardens are now named Stephen’s House and Gardens, which is a public park. Dunloran Park in Royal Tunbridge Wells is another great example of Robert Marnocks work and has been restored at a cost of £2.8 million to bring it back to Marnock’s original design. Last but very much not least which needs a mention is the bear pit…yes really…a bear pit. Built in 1836 to house a black bear when an attempt was made to add zoological exhibits to the gardens, and which was later stopped due to noise and bad smells. The actual structure is grade II Listed and one of the best examples in the country mostly due to its use over many years as “Yorkshires biggest compost heap.” In 1855 Sir Henry Hunloke gave 2 brown bears to the gardens although there are no known records of how long they remained at this location…there is however a legend of a child dying after falling into the bears pit in about 1870 whether this is correct I cannot be totally sure. In the current day there still remains a bear in the pit …oh no…not a real one…a fantastic 2.4 metre sculpture which was installed in Jan 2005. The sculpture was a silver grey colour when installed and just as the sculptor intended has now turned a perfect grizzly bear shade of rust brown. I do believe my family and I will be returning to Sheffield’s inspiring Botanic Gardens on many occasions to witness the changing seasons of the flora and fauna here and to sample another cup of frothy coffee I should imagine. My visit has proven a theory that there are a multitude of locations to explore and discover throughout the seasons, there’s no need to spend the winter hibernating when there’s so much to capture the imagination and inspire us throughout the year. I hope these botanic gardens have captured your imagination as it has mine.