Becoming a charity!

Over the past 12 months, our income has increased quite substantially due to grants, increased membership and income from events we run for the community.   We are now in the happy place of having to apply to formalise our position with an application for charitable status as an Incorporated Organisation.  We would like to do this as soon as possible after the next Friends meeting.

We have used standard documentation from the Charity Commission to put together a constitution for the Friends and which we would like to discuss and approve (possibly with minor amendments) at the meeting on Thursday. You can see this document here FRP constitution 20 03 2019.

We have defined our objectives as being to:

1         promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of Rowntree Park as a place of environmental interest and amenity value

2        advance the education of the public in relation to the history, biodiversity and other aspects of Rowntree Park and related Issues

3        work with others on the provision of facilities for public education, recreation and other leisure interests within Rowntree Park

4        Promote civic responsibility, volunteering, health and well-being among the users of Rowntree Park.

We do need some Friends of Rowntree Park members to help with the organisation of this, as Trustees.  5 – 7 people are needed for this, and we hope they will step forward/ be selected on Thursday. If you cannot attend the meeting but are interested in putting yourself forward as a Trustee, then please let us know.  Similarly, get in touch if you’d like to find out more on what being a Trustee involves. General information on becoming a charity trustee is here.

The Friends of Rowntree Park meeting takes place on Thurs 11th April at 7pm in Rowntree Park Reading Cafe.  All members are welcome.

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Update on the flat above the cafe

Two of the Friends’ committee attended the meeting of the Council’s Executive yesterday evening (14th Feb), and spoke about the Friends’ concerns about the plans to create a holiday flat in the former park-keepers accommodation. We had previously added our comments on the planning application (see the planning portal with the reference number 18/02255/FUL) and these comments are amongst those integrated in the council’s updated document on the application (pages 71 to 85)

We anticipated that the holiday flat plans would be agreed at this meeting, because no viable alternatives have been brought forward, despite a lot of discussion. And so it proved to be. However, it was significant that the councillors agreed with us that the public hadn’t been given sufficient information about the plan, in particular how the money raised would be spent, and how the property would be managed, when the conversion was completed. And the lack of clear communication even meant that members of the public thought that the flat (or in one case the cafe itself) was to be sold – unsurprisingly the word ‘disposal’ in the legal documents led people to assume this. The council’s updated document (see above) does provide answers to many of the questions raised, but it is still not readily accessible, as it is 15 pages within a daunting 342-page document, held on the council’s website.

Besides these issues, the aspects that have caused most debate locally can be grouped under the heading ‘moral issues.’ Would the Rowntree family have approved of (non-local) people holidaying in the park, and paying a lot of money for the privilege? Is it in the spirit of their gift? Would it be more fitting if a council employee was offered the accommodation? Is re-purposing like this an indication that the council would eventually like to sell the property? It is difficult to know the answers (impossible in some cases) but a question-and-answer session – and equivalent published material – would be very helpful.

However, the plans and money weren’t just ‘nodded through’ at the meeting, because (unusually) the council officers were told that they were required to now engage with the public, seeking to clarify plans and allay worries, and then return to the Executive. We will now work with council officers to ensure that there is an open meeting for this purpose, as soon as practical, and will advertise this as widely as possible. As usual, why not follow us on FB or Twitter (better still, join as a Friend, and get our regular members’ newsletters) and keep up to date with the news in the Park?

Meanwhile, the planning application will be re-worked and re-submitted, probably in July, with work on the Lodge (assuming that all goes to plan) starting in the autumn. Again, we make sure that this is advertised on FB, Twitter and via our newsletters.

All the council’s meetings are webcast, so you can see clips of us and Cllr Johnny Hayes speaking towards the beginning of the meeting, and the discussion amongst the councillors 52 minutes later on, using this link. 


A hundred years ago

ecc comm map image

A hundred years ago, the First World War had just finished and the world could start to think about planning for a better future. After so much loss, many hoped that the League of Nations (founded 1920, mentioned on the plaque in the lych gate) would help promote peace. Meanwhile, across the UK, those who had suffered were commemorated and remembered in various ways, including war memorials, memorial halls and parks.

During 1919, Rowntree and Company Ltd bought several parcels of land which would eventually go together to make the area we now know as Rowntree Park.  The park was to be a tribute to the Company’s workers who had suffered in the war. The largest section of land was Nun Ings, bought from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (now known as the Church Commissioners), and this image from the conveyance of 31st December 1919 shows the fields that made up this area, bounded by Clementhorpe Beck, to the west and south. The drawing must have been based on a map done some time previously, as it doesn’t show Norfolk St, St Clements Grove and Aldreth Grove all of which were already laid-out and partially built by 1919; it does show some fish and a cute (but archaic) sailing ship!

Rowntrees paid £1500 for Nun Ings together with at least another £1100 for other parcels of land, and they then also paid for the creation of the park, before handing it over in 1921 as a free gift to the ‘Corporation’ (i.e. the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of York). The various legal documents of 1919 show that the Rowntree family wanted the park to be “for ever hereafter be kept up and maintained as a public park, public pleasure ground, public playing fields or other like purposes of public recreation, and that proper and adequate attendance and service shall be for ever hereafter provided for the purposes aforesaid.”

More information about the park’s early history can be found in this recent post by Kate Davy

 


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.


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!

scarecrow2