Friends of Rowntree Park BCC: Guest Blog

The Friends of Rowntree Park

Parks and open spaces are so important. During Covid lockdown, parks have been an essential part of physical and mental health for many. More and more people are realising the importance of public space. Council run parks have seen budget cuts over the last few years and therefore groups of volunteers have taken a larger role in caring for parks and open spaces and keeping them open for the community.

The Friends of Rowntree Park are a group of volunteers who help care for, and improve, Rowntree Park in York. Originally set up in 1993, we became a charity in 2019. This is because the nature and need of our volunteer work has vastly changed, especially over the last two years since the loss of a park keeper. Volunteers are key in making Rowntree Park what it is today. Our role is wide ranging – from gardening, to running community events, litter picking and leaf collection, adding features to the park like new basketball facilities, improving wildlife habitats, ecosystems and more. We are always looking for new volunteers to help us. Whatever people’s skills – we need you! Whether a one off, occasional or a more regular thing, volunteers really make a difference to the park. Also volunteering can really make a difference to you – learn new skills, meet new people, and really feel a sense of pride and achievement.

Here are just a couple examples of what our volunteers get up to…

Our volunteer gardeners really help improve the physical space by bringing colour to the park and helping encourage pollinators. We have a weekly group people can attend, but also opportunities to come at times that fit around you. As well as some gentle exercise, the gardening group is a great way to meet people – they always go for a coffee in the cafe after a gardening session. No specific skills needed and all tools provided. We have worked with other charities such as Mind, YUMI and York Bike Belles on gardening based projects in the park. It’s great to see what we can do together!

Our volunteers also work with children and young people. We are really passionate about children growing to love nature, appreciating the natural and local environment around them, making them feel part of the community and seeing their role as future custodians of the park. Our children’s events include one off nature based activities, as well as regular sessions such as our Forest School and Very Young Friends meet ups. We have also started working with local schools to offer educational sessions, and have successfully obtained funding from the Police Commissioners fund and Micklegate Ward to deliver sessions for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We also run events to help bring the community together. We have large seasonal events such as the Easter Egg hunt, Scarecrow Festival and free musical performances in the park through the summer, as well as art projects and installations. We have a regular adults craft group and run well-being sessions in nature. Despite doing a lot, we are just a small group of volunteers and would love to hear from people interested in getting involved in some way. Another great opportunity to get involved in volunteering would be through York Cares ‘Big Community Challenge’…

We were very excited to be told that we had won the support of York Cares ‘Big Community Challenge’ 2020. The project was due to take place in June, but is currently postponed due to Covid-19 but will happen! The Big Community Challenge is a 3 day event which involves volunteers, community organisations and local businesses working together to transform a local community space. As 2021 is the Rowntree Park’s hundredth birthday, being able to mark the anniversary of Rowntree Park and create something really special for the community is important. With the support of volunteers and local businesses our aim is to improve the wildlife area in the park located near the Butcher Terrace field away from the more formal areas of the park. This includes improving the current wildlife pond, the beck area and forest school facilities. This is the perfect opportunity to get involved in volunteering in Rowntree park and really make a difference!

Without volunteers Rowntree Park would be a very different place. We are grateful for everyone who has given up some time in the last few years and we look forward to welcoming new volunteers as we move into future.