Because my passion is rooted in landscape, it's the outdoor/indoor city aspect of Sheffield that I am really drawn too and I see others responding to too. Sheffield’s topology is a challenge but also one of its strongest visual characteristics and I love the staggering views you get from just about everywhere that never look the same twice. When I walk in the Peak District at the weekend the place teems with Sheffield folk and when the buses come to a total halt which they do most winters at some point you see the city don hiking boots (even skis in some circumstances!) and pulling toboggans to get on with their daily life.
And then because of the phenomenal scale of the urban meadow movement which started right here in Sheffield with us at the Green Estate and has such an impact on some of the most derelict and sterile surrounds, I can't help smiling when I spot our escapee flowers naturalising and brightening up some of the most astonishing locations. The City of Steel has also become the City of Flowers – co-mingling happily!
I am proud to lead one of Sheffield’s rich heritage of social enterprises. In itself, we have tried to break expectations of what not-for-profit business can be and can bring. We earn our money mostly as a specialist landscape company delivering design, build and management services mostly out of our own patch with an emphasis on innovative sustainable planting. In any given week the team from the Manor might be working on a green roof in London, doing consultancy work in Europe advising on urban planting, or closer to home installing new sustainable urban drainage schemes. We then use our profit to cross-subsidise everything from local parks and our heritage visitor centre to Food Poverty projects, targeted cultural programmes with hard to reach audiences and affordable holiday activities for local families.
Sheffield has warmth, energy and heart in abundance. Most of what we have done would have been impossible in any other city. There has been a willingness to take risks but also the responsibility that needs to go with that because, let's face it, there just isn’t enough wealth to go round and inequalities are still a big issue here in Sheffield. But alongside this, our city has the most amazing volunteer culture too with the fantastic two-way benefit of reducing social isolation - especially with an ageing population and keeping a wealth of neighbourhood and special interest places and activities thriving on a shoestring.