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)

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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.


Blossom time in the park

The cherry blossom in the park is looking so lovely, and we’re looking forward to the Japanese Society coming next Saturday, for a blossom celebration. However, we’d also like to celebrate the beauty of the apple blossom. If you haven’t already found it, there is a row of apple trees, of several different types, in Butcher Terrace Field (the bit of the park closest to the Millennium Bridge). The Friends planted these trees a few years ago and they’re now looking thoroughly settled-in. While you’re there, check out the wildlife pond (with tansy bank behind) – the froglets have probably all hopped off to hide in the undergrowth – and the Thicket (a grand-sounding name for a patch of hawthorne, wild rose, hazel etc). apple blossom may 2018


I’ve got a little list

No, not a list of Christmas presents I’d like to have – a list of volunteering opportunities in the park! Well, not so little either (see below), but this gives a flavour of the work that we already do in the park – as well as some of the things that we’d like to be able to do. There’s a huge amount of variety: some of them are one-off or occasional items, and some are much more long-term. Some tasks are seasonal – leaf raking and snow warden – and others can be done anytime of the year. They are on the list in a deliberately random order.

If you would like more details on any of these volunteering opportunities, do get in contact info@rowntreepark.org.uk

Litter pickers
Co-ordinator or organiser of events suitable for teenagers
Poster/flyer designer
Website design
Volunteer co-ordinator
Musical event co-ordinator
Newsletter/leaflet delivery
Event planners
Bird seed topping-up
Duck food provider
‘Snow Warden’ = salt/grit scattering
Leaf raking (and using leaf blower)
Goose herding
Gardening
Gardening info circulation
Younger Friends (assisting)
Very Young Friends (leader)
Very Young Friends (assisting)
Bird recording
Wood-worker

Guest blogpost: Baby Moorhens in the Park

Alisons picture of the chicks

Success story: the three #southislandchicks using Hugo’s ramp

Between a dog and a three year old, I’m in the park two to three times a day, so I tend to notice the arrival of some new baby waterfowl.  A few weeks back, on a trip to the playground, I noticed two baby moorhen near the north island, peeping away in the water while their mother walked along the edge of the island.  Before the ramps to the islands were removed during the clearing of the lake a few months ago, baby chicks could easily access dry land.  When I walked the dog later in the day, both were beginning to look unwell.   Once in the water, they had no way out: they were too small either to get on to the island or out on to the pavement.  I made a makeshift raft by tying some sticks together with bits of long grass and managed to scoop one on, but the other was too far away.

Uncertain what else to do, I called the RSPCA – their officer was too busy to get to the park before nightfall, and in any case I don’t think they quite grasped the situation I was describing (they reassured me that it’s natural for moorhen chicks to go in the water not long after they are born; I tried to explain I was less concerned with them being in the water than I was with the fact that they couldn’t get out).  They asked me to call in the morning if the chicks were still there and seemed to need help; when I checked on them an hour later, both had already drowned, having swum to exhaustion.

It was at this point that I contacted the Friends of Rowntree Park, to ask what had happened to the ramps.  Cath answered my email swiftly and shared my concerns; when a new group of moorhen chicks ended up in the same situation last week, I went straight to Cath to see if the Friends could help.  Walking through the park again an hour and half later (armed with sticks and a bit of scrap wood I found on my walk so that, in case she hadn’t received my email, I could attempt to help them myself somehow), I was delighted to find Cath, along with Rosemary and Hugo, mid-rescue operation.  They managed to get three chicks back on to the south island, and one on to the north island (a second by the north island had already died).  The next day in the park, I gathered some large sticks in the hopes of propping them by the edge of the lake so at the very least they could get a break from swimming, and hopefully on to dry land a bit.  As I was doing so, I bumped into Hugo and Rosemary with some new ramps they had made, and Cath made a makeshift nest of sticks on a couple of bricks for them, too.  A few hours later I spotted the chicks on Cath’s nest, and a day or two later I spotted them – and one of the smaller ducklings – making good use of the ramp to get on and off the island.  After what had happened before, this felt a wonderful success story.

To make a long story short – it was amazing to see such a swift response from the Friends in helping out some of the inhabitants of the park.  At a time when budget cuts mean the park depends more and more on volunteers to maintain it, it’s wonderful to see what a dedicated team the Friends are; they’ve certainly inspired me to look into more ways to get involved.

Guest post by Alison


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….


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.