Swimming in Rowntree Park

This blogpost is by Rose and June, Friends of Rowntree Park and local residents for many years. They remember the swimming pool in the park as being an important part of growing up in York. We welcome more contributions from people who remember the park – and from people who use the park now.

We both spent our childhoods in York in the fifties and early sixties. Like many York children, Rowntree Park was where we could go to play on the swings, roundabout, seesaw and, in the warmer months, we could go to Rowntree Park swimming pool. The play equipment was where the table tennis tables now stand and the swimming pool was where the car park is. [It closed in the 1980s, I think]

Looking back, we realize we have different standards of health, safety and comfort nowadays. The play equipment stood on a concrete floor. What happened if you hurt yourself? We can’t recall but I doubt if the council was blamed.

The entrance to the open-air swimming pool was at the north end. A lady took your money and gave you a ticket. Then you went to a cubicle to change. Males went to the right of the pool, females to the left but the cubicles didn’t have keys. We think you could bolt them from the inside but, as you simply left your clothes in them along with other people’s on a busy day, you had to trust no one would steal your belongings. Probably the lady at the till would look after valuables. An amendment to the sign telling females to wear bathing caps was made when males started to have long hair. Now it read “..females and males with long hair.”

There was a terrace up a flight of steps which surrounded the pool. On a sunny day you could sunbathe in some discomfort as this surface was also concrete. The water was unheated and we can remember hovering at the edge of the pool knowing that the first few seconds would be a challenge. At the deep end were springboards. The steps up to the high one were wooden and could become slippery but we can’t recall protests about this – though people did sometimes hurt themselves.

I (Rose) learnt to swim there as did many other York children. It was the one sport I was a success at and I represented our school, Mill Mount Grammar School For Girls (where we met each other in the first form), at the swimming gala.

We agree that it would be good to have a swimming pool in Rowntree Park again, though this time with less slippery steps up to the diving board….


Round up for 2016

World events may be getting you down, but perhaps we can cheer you up a bit by saying that the Park, and the Friends, have had a good year overall. At our AGM, we looked back at 2016, and noted some highlights:

  1. Very Young Friends have had a strong year, with an enormous turn-out for the Easter Egg Hunt, and a typical monthly turn-out 15 to 30 people. Sessions delivered have a range of entertaining but educational themes, including those led by the Bat Group and BugLife.
  2. The Birthday Party was very well attended, with large numbers of stalls, and only a few issues, one of which was toilets (portaloos will be booked, next year), parking (inevitably) and the need for more volunteers; many thanks to Christina who was the force behind another terrific success.
  3. Voluntary gardening sessions have been well-attended and well-received; Rosemary is now co-ordinating this. Emma had organised a plant sale in May, which raised our profile.
  4. Ruth has been supervising the bird food project, with good sales of food packets from the café. Christine has delivered a bird-related talk to Knavesmire School children, and laminated signs have gone up in the play area.
  5. The Friends sponsored a very popular yarnstorming project, by Hippystitch, with workshops resulting in a beautiful ‘Fantasy Fish’ installation in the park.
  6. Lara McClure organised two clothes swaps, in the Cafe.
  7. Friends’ membership numbers had gone up, possibly partly as a result of the 10% Friends’ discount at the Café; the Friends thanked Mel for suggesting and supporting the discount.
  8. Dave Meigh (CYC) reported that there had been a lot of running repairs recently (eg repointing, refurbishment of basketball court and the pergola). Committee members had met with Dave for a site visit/walkaround.

At the time of the AGM, the Friends were looking forward to the bulb planting event (October halfterm), and willow weaving (December), both of which were also very well-attended, and successful. We have also recently sited bird feeders and hedgehog homes in the Park.

So, if you would like to help us continue with our work into 2017, please consider getting a FRP membership (what a lovely Christmas gift?). If you would like to help with our activities (maybe to help with the gardening?), why not get in touch by email, or follow us (Friends and Very Young Friends) on Facebook.

All the best for the festive season, and for 2017

Friends of Rowntree Park


Wild and wonderful corner of the Park

Five years ago, the Friends had just finished creating the wildlife pond, in Butcher Terrace Field; we’re delighted to be able to say that the pond has attracted a lot of frogs, dragonflies, water snails, water boatmen – and plenty of human visitors!

Around the same time, we also planted some apple trees, along the edge of the Field, and these have been quietly getting on with growing and fruiting. They now need a bit of attention, and we would like to give them a winter prune soon; any offers of help with this?

The apple trees have some interesting names. These are (from north to south): Discovery, Rajka, Annie Elizabeth, Ingrid Marie, Bramley Clone, Chivers’ Delight, Sunset, Grenadier, Ribston Pippin, Warner’s King, Greensleeves, Balsam.


Crowning Autumn

We had a lovely time at our October meet up for Very Young Friends playing with leaves.  Sadly not enough leaves had fallen for us to make a giant leaf pile for jumping in but we still had fun looking for leaves and autumn colours on our leaf treasure hunt.  We also really enjoyed making autumn crowns by weaving willow branches into a ring and tucking leaves and other lovely finds into them.

blog-post-oct-1

However, some of us – my very own very young friend especially – remembered that willow is good for lots of things and began making new adventures.  Willow lends itself to outdoor play very well because its so flexible and there are usually lots of long lengths of it under the trees (called whips).  You can twist it, wave it, tie it and anything else you can think of.  These are some of our favourite things to play with willow:

  1. Hours have gone by while my little explorers have dipped long lengths of willow in and out of the lake attempting to catch fish.  Unsurprisingly they’ve never caught one but it doesn’t seem to deter them!
  2. Scooter modifications. Take a piece of willow, tie it to a scooter and voila!  A go-faster leaver.  A teddy bear holder.  Use it to tie sticks on for extra features, maybe breaks or booster buttons.  And if you run out of power, a hanging willow branch makes for a excellent petrol pump.
  3. Weave more crowns like we did, or bracelets, or mini Christmas wreaths.  Make a stick frame and weave a picture.  Use other nature treasures to decorate them, maybe some coloured leaves or pine cones.
  4. Some of those willow whips are really long.  If you find a nice flexible one (and you’re not very big!)  you can use it as a skipping rope.
  5. Waving.  The ultimate in entertainment if you’re a toddler.  Grab a willow whip.  Wave it about. Job done

blog-post-oct-2

Have a go next time you’re in the park.  Remember to only take willow from the ground and keep the trees healthy.

Next month we’ll be thinking about hibernation and getting ready for winter. Come along to find out about the sleepy animals in the park and make some lovely hedgehogs to take home. Join us on 3rd November at 11.30 by the log circle in the woods.

Christine Potter and the Very Young Friends

Pssssst.  If you like making things with willow look out for a special December event for all ages where you can make your own Christmas wreaths.  Saturday 3rd Dec, 10-12. £5 per wreath.

blog-post-oct-3


Friends’ AGM: Thursday 6th October

Everyone is welcome to the Friends’ AGM. Come and let us know your thoughts for the next year … 7pm at the Reading Cafe. Entrance via Richardson St. If you are running late, after 7pm, ring  551489 for entry.


Where have all the Conkers gone?

A guest blogpost by Christine, of the Very Young Friends

My own very young friend of Rowntree Park and I love to go out collecting things.  We’ve found pine cones, seed pods, brown leaves, green leaves, red leaves, orange leaves and all the colours inbetween but NO conkers!

We searched the woods area.  We searched the play park trees.  We searched all the trees and found nothing.  Had all our other very young friends beaten us to it?  Maybe it was the squirrels hiding them away for winter?  Or maybe there were no conkers?

A search under the trees found nothing (except in the play park where there were a few chewed up little bits of conkers) and a look up into the trees found no conker pods waiting to fall.  We did find some brown shrivelled up tiny seed pods on the trees which had never made it into conkers.  Sadly there are no conkers in the park this year.

Back home we checked it out on the internet.  We found a whole range of things which might have upset the trees.  We found there is an insect call the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner which attacks the leaves of the horse chestnut. The larvae mine within the leaves which then fall off.  We also discovered another illness called Leaf Blotch where a fungus infects the leaves.  We’re just hoping that it was caused by the floods last winter and that the conkers will be back next year.

For this year though, we’re looking elsewhere for our conkers.  If you know of any good conker trees around York, let us know!


Getting Rowntree Park buzzing

Guest post from York Urban Buzz:

York Urban Buzz is taking York by storm, making the most of the city’s untapped potential for bee-friendly parks and gardens. Soon Rowntree Park and along the river by Millennium Bridge will be bursting with even more flowers, buzzing with bees, butterflies and many other pollinating insects. If you look carefully, you might also spot some bees relaxing in their boutique bee hotel.
We have specifically chosen these sites to be flagship ‘Buzzing Hotspots’. Over the summers to come, there should be a riot of colour, making it a more vibrant and inspiring place to be. The new developments will provide vital new food and nesting places for our pollinators, so that they will be happy and healthy – just like the spaces are loved and used by local people (at the centre of this project is making our parks and gardens better and more enjoyable for us too). Work at Millennium Bridge has already started with wild flowers being planted with the fantastic help of local people and plans are being made for Rowntree Park.

As well as being very good news for us, this is good news for our buzzing buddies too. They have been having a really tough time lately and some species of bumblebee have even gone extinct. What a lot of people just don’t realise is that we depend on insect pollination for much of our food and that around 80% of wildflowers rely on pollination. So, without our buzzing buddies, butterflies and other pollinators our food would be boring and our parks and gardens dull.

So, over the summer when you’re enjoying your strawberries and cream tea, take a minute to thank our tiny pollinators busily buzzing about their day!

York Urban Buzz is a Buglife project. To get involved and support www.buglife.org.uk/urban-buzz/york  or contact Andrew Cutts Andrew.cutts@buglife.org.uk