Rowntree Park remembers

harold thomas image

Rowntree Park is a wonderful place for quiet personal contemplation, and many local people use spaces within the park throughout the year, to reflect and remember their loved ones. This October and November we are also remembering those affected by the First World War, with several installations and displays in the park.

  • Within the Reading Cafe, we have installed images of local people who fought in the war, along with some souvenir material.
  • Two information banners produced by Clements Hall Local History Group have also been set up in the cafe.
  • A wall of knitted and crocheted poppies flows down from the cafe, to where a willow soldier sits quietly with a copy of the Cocoa Works Magazine, known as the Cocoa Times
  • Other crafted items are placed in various locations
  • Children have painted ‘Remembrance Rocks’ with words and images to do with remembrance, which are then hidden in various secret places for others to find
  • Local arts collective ‘Northern Electric’ have created a sound trail called ‘Green in our Memory’ which is based within the park, and which can be found on the free app Situate

Our poppies are not just the ‘normal’ red poppies – you will see that they are of several different colours. Red poppies are worn to remember military personnel who have died as a result of war; they have been worn since 1921, and were originally inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ by John McCrae. White poppies are known as peace poppies, and are appropriate in the context of the park with its Quaker connections. There was originally controversy about white poppies, but this 1986 quote from the Bishop of Salisbury represents our view: “…there is plenty of space for red and white [poppies] to bloom side by side.” The idea of green poppies came from Seebohm Rowntree who said to the crowd on the park’s opening day, that he hoped that the park “might keep green in their memories, and those who were to come after them, the high ideals for which England had entered the war.” You might even be able to spot one purple poppy; purple poppies are for the animals who have suffered and died during wartime.

We hope that you will find time to visit the park and cafe whilst this material is on display and that you find your visit both evocative and interesting. We will leave a Memory Book by the display in the cafe, so that you can add any thoughts you might have.

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Friends annual round-up and the AGM

October is our month for looking back over the last year, and for our AGM.

The summary of our work over the last year can be found here. Our financial statement is viewable here.

Everyone’s welcome to the AGM (18th October, 7pm at the Reading Cafe), so do come along and have your say about what’s going on in the park. This year we’re aiming to have a very brief formal element, where we review the year, confirm the financial situation and (re)elect the committee, followed by small group discussions on the key topics for the work of the Friends. Then we’ll get back together for conclusions and CAKE! Sounds like my kind of meeting …

 


Ain’t that goose news? Man, ain’t that news? (With apologies to the late, great Sam Cooke)

For a number of months, volunteers from the Friends of Rowntree Park (guided by the council’s experts) have been seeking to manage the goose situation in the Park, in a humane way.

Doing anything to manage the geese problem does not meet the approval of all – and we do appreciate that we can’t please everyone.  Over the decades, there has been much conflicting debate in The Press and over social media (not to mention nationally/internationally) on this issue. There is no simple solution.

The numbers of geese fluctuate, and along with that, the level of nuisance experienced. However, last summer it had again reached a point where there were regularly over 80 geese in the Park. Many local people we spoke to, and who wrote into The Press, were simply unwilling to come to the Park either because their children were scared of the geese or (more likely) because of the sheer volume of goose poo which is unsightly and unhealthy, for young and old alike.

In our work, we remember that our Park is unique because it’s a memorial to the courageous victims of World War 1, as well as a vital resource for recreation, learning and well-being in our increasingly built-up city. The Park is also an essential component in the City’s flood strategy. So for these and many more reasons, it is massively important that the Park continues to be used and enjoyed, maintained and improved.

With so many local people not wanting to visit the Park because of the geese, and the waning in resources available to our Council, those crucial roles of Rowntree Park are endangered.

There have been many debates and conversations with the council and other advisors about the goose situation. As reported in a previous post, we started a programme of goose management using hand-held lasers, which was largely successful. When the goose moulting season set in (June), we induced the final few to leave on foot.

So as of the last week of June, there were no geese in the Park – a couple have returned now and we are certain a few more will return, when they are able to fly comfortably. In small, controllable numbers that will be fine, but we don’t however want to be so overrun that the very future of our Park is called into doubt.

Meanwhile, we continue to discuss other methods to manage them: artificial hawks, daytime volunteer patrols, small fencing around the lake which will deter geese but not mallards. (Incidentally we have had 24 new mallards this year).

A side benefit of our work on this matter has been the daily presence of FRP volunteers in the Park meaning that we can monitor and be active on a range of other vital issues: vandalism, litter, planting, and so forth.

Many thanks to all our goose volunteers – Tom, Val, Lara, Christine and Ruth – who have achieved such success.

We will continue to monitor the goose situation regularly and humanely in the interests of preserving the unique role of our Park in the life of this city and its benefits for so many…

David Rowsell (Goose Herder General)


Walking to Wonderland?

As part of the Bloom! the festival, follow our scarecrow trail this weekend, walking through the local neighbourhood.  The theme is children’s stories.  What an array we have with creative scarecrow designs based on Miffy, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Iron Giant, The Boy In The Dress, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Aliens Love Underpants and The Magic Faraway Tree – amongst others – it will be great family-friendly fun.  There is a main trail as well as one for ‘little legs’.

Trails are £2, available from Rowntree Park Reading Cafe, Frankie and Johnnies’ and Pextons on Bishopthorpe Road, as well as from our stall in the park (near the cafe) on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 to 4pm.

Completed trail sheets can be returned to the stall in the park and there are prizes on offer for the ‘Best Scarecrow’ and completed sheets draw at random.  In the park we will also have some children’s crafts activities as well as the opportunity to view our plans for the new play park. We’d love to hear your views on the final three designs.

It should be a fantastic weekend!

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Gardening progress, guest post by Rosemary

Rosemary is our wonderful gardening co-ordinator, and this is her report on progress so far, in 2018

The volunteer gardening team have met – weather permitting – on a weekly basis since March.  The plan for Spring was to increase the perennial plants in the borders, adding lupins to copy the original George Russell (a local horticulturist) lupin borders and to plant perennials chosen by Dave Brown (our former park-keeper) as these could cope with the conditions in the borders. The team have been great, working through a sudden snow storm in March whilst restoring the story circle and having to take frequent drink breaks in shade when gardening in May because of the heat.

The raised beds have been built by Tom and Val and put in place with the help of Good Gym and members of the gardening team. These beds are designed for wheelchair gardeners and those with limited movement. The sensory garden beds will have herbs to smell and the other bed easy annuals such as lettuce and radish to taste. Suggestions welcome.

In the picnic garden, the raised beds are designed for children to plant or easy annuals which have interest eg. a smell of chocolate or antirrhinums (snap dragons) which will open by touch. The plan given to CVS for the ‘Growing Green Spaces’ grant is on track. The beech hedge has been restored at the back of the other small garden, and this area will be secure (for toddlers/from geese) when the cost of metal bow-topped railings and gates can be found, thus completing the required symmetry.

In addition to the above, a small memorial bed with red and white pelargonium has been made either side of the (now-listed) Lychgate. It is intended to add a name board of local cocoa workers who served in the First World War, for display by November.

The Cascade area (next to the cafe) has several rather neglected acers (maples) which we have been clearing and we have added a further six smaller specimen trees. The park has received a bequest of a beautiful mature red acer, effectively a bonsai due to its restriction with its pot, which is now at the base of the cascade. We might not be able to replicate the Himalayan Garden near Ripon but certainly intend to improve this area.

The number of volunteers has increased and the support of the council’s environment officers Beki, Kristina and Iain has been marvellous. The future of gardening and maintenance may be uncertain but the team’s enthusiasm for caring for the park has been terrific over the spring period. Many thanks to all of them, from our youngest pre-schoolers to the retirement club!!

Regular sessions on Tuesday mornings (9.30 to about 11.30) and most Saturday mornings. Contact Rosemary on gardening@rowntreepark.org.uk for more information.


Geese management

The geese have been a perennial problem in the park; there are too many of them (out-competing the ducks, moorhens, coots etc), they make too much mess and they are very aggressive in the breeding season. This is a nation-wide problem, and if there was a simple solution, surely someone would have found it by now?

Over the years, we’ve had hours and hours of discussion with the council, working with them to get reports done, suggesting ways of adapting the landscape etc etc. Eventually last summer we agreed with the council that we would start herding the geese. The principle is that the geese are moved on every day, at dawn and dusk, using an Agri-laser; this doesn’t harm the geese, they just think the laser beam is a solid beam or post, and they fly off. We are trained and insured by the council for this.

And it does work; from highs of 100 to 200, we have reduced the numbers to 18 to 35 (representing 1-2 family groups). But this success represents hundreds of volunteer hours, and this level of input may not be sustainable, so we are looking at additional possibilities, which may include low level fences in the lake (as seen in the royal parks in London).

The only amusing thing is that some people seem to think that we haven’t spotted that there is a goose poo problem in the park – if only it was so slight that we could have over-looked this issue!


Is Rowntree Park rusting?

Occasionally we notice some curious (natural) goings-on in the park and we do our best to figure out what’s happening. Recently a Friend pointed out an area with rust-coloured water running over the lakeside paths – what was it? where did it come from? Was there a giant iron structure buried in the park??

Luckily for us, Gary (one of the gardening volunteers) and his partner Lucy have some expertise in related areas, and Gary emailed to say:

We think that what you’re seeing in the park is the result of iron bacteria, so-called because they use iron, rather than oxygen, during their respiration. In their life cycles, soluble iron from the soil gets turned into insoluble iron (‘rust’, which appears as orange/red slime). This whole process could be a byproduct of all the organic compounds being provided by the multitude of geese and ducks in the park, which will of course encourage growth of microorganisms, which will then use up all the oxygen, allowing anaerobic bacteria in turn to then take control of the ecosystem.

We then asked a follow-up question, about the oily sheen that is sometimes seen in the same areas, and we got this answer:

In this case the oily sheen is the result of the iron bacteria, but rather than hydrocarbons being produced by the bacteria, it could be the bacteria themselves; they’ll proliferate madly but as things become tough they’ll start to die and break down, resulting in an oily sheen. That, or the products they make take on the resemblance of being hydrocarbons or oil, but actually aren’t.

So it looks like Rowntree Park is neither the burial place of a prehistoric iron-working site (a great disappointment to some people!) nor the potential location of Yorkshire’s biggest oil field (a great relief to us all!) But it is fascinating what can emerge if you ‘Ask a Scientist.’

Thank you, Gary and Lucy!