Home Places to visit Cool Gardens: Rowntree Park, York

Cool Gardens: Rowntree Park, York

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The lychgate covered with Virginia creeper
The lychgate covered with Virginia creeper

Restful park near York city centre

Another in my Cool Gardens series – and another from York. Rowntree Park is new to me and I imagine to a lot of tourists, but not to the locals. Next time you’re in the city, make a detour and get some fresh air back into your lungs. Pictures by Vanessa Sundin.

Rowntree Park, which has won a Green Flag Award every year since 2004, is just a short walk from the city centre, on the banks of the River Ouse, and was the perfect setting for an autumnal stroll.

After a £1.8million Heritage Lottery Fund-aided refurbishment, the 30-acre park was restored to its original splendour – but thanks to cuts, for how long? (We’ll get onto that later.)

The park was a gift to the City of York by Rowntree & Co in 1921 and is a memorial to the Cocoa Works staff who fell and suffered during the First World War.

A set of decorative wrought-iron gates off The Terry Avenue entrance, made circa 1715, was also presented by the firm, in 1954, as a memorial to those killed during the Second World War. The park’s centrepiece, a lychgate covered in Virginia creeper, has two bronze plaques commemorating both occasions.

Planting and wildlife

As we visited in early autumn, we were too late for the best of the borders and too early for the most vibrant tree colours but it was still a lovely place to explore.

Herbaceous perennials in abundance, bamboo and grasses, pockets of annuals, a rose pergola and a wonderful woodland walk make it a great place to chill out away from the city.

The park is also home to the tansy beetle, the ultra-rare (and ultra-green) insect found only around 30km of the River Ouse floodplain. It’s Yorkshire’s arthropod version of China’s giant panda, existing only on tansy flowers. We may have caught one on camera – any experts out there?

As in the Museum Gardens, there were grey squirrels everywhere, stocking up for winter, along with ducks and geese aplenty.

The Friends of Rowntree Park

The group was formed in 1996 to work with City of York Council. The Young Friends and the Very Young Friends have since been formed.

I was astounded to read there were no permanent council gardeners anymore in the 30-acre park due to cuts and volunteers did the gardening work! Apart from them doing a fantastic job, parks are vital to the health and wellbeing of their neighbourhood and desperately need investment.

If anyone in the York area can help, please do – this is one asset the city cannot afford to lose.
For more information, visit http://www.rowntreepark.org.uk/.

Park facilities

  • The events and entertainment space is available for hire year round
  • Woodland walk and tree trails
  • Ornamental lake, half of which is available for use by model boats
  • 6 tennis courts
  • Skatepark
  • Basketball court
  • Rowntree Park Reading Cafe
  • Toilets
  • War memorial
  • Children’s play area
  • Orienteering map, activity sheet and information leaflet are available to download
  • Dogs on lead welcome
  • Table tennis tables
  • Rowntree Park Tennis Club

Useful information

  • Address: Rowntree Park, Terry Avenue, Micklegate, York YO23 1JQ.
  • Opening hours: The park is open daily apart from Christmas Day, from 8am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturdays and Sundays, closing at dusk.
  • Accessibility: There is easy access with mostly level paths. See the DisabledGo website for information for the Rowntree Park Reading Cafe.
  • Getting there: Buses run frequently from the city centre to Bishopthorpe Road then follow signs down Butcher Terrace to the Millennium Bridge. Travel by bike or foot along the riverside or across the Millennium Bridge.
  • Parking: Car park on Terry Avenue, or on-street parking in the surrounding streets (don’t be rude and block residents in!)
  • Flooding: As the park is in the River Ouse floodplain, it is closed when river levels are high, even if water has not entered the park for safety reasons. If a flood occurs, it may take several weeks to reopen.
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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