The challenge of the century

We were delighted to volunteer with the York Cares Big Community Challenge once again after a year out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This year, the beneficiary was the beloved Rowntree Park which, after a year of lockdowns and floods hindering maintenance, was in desperate need of a spruce up. It is also the famous park’s centenary this July, so there was double the reason to get green fingered!

The Partners Group team donned their gloves and grabbed their shovels to help dig a pond for a new wildlife and education area being created close to the Millennium Bridge and River Ouse.  Some exciting finds were made in the process including a vintage perfume/medicine bottle and a teacup! The pond is to replace an existing one nearby that Is no longer fit for purpose or beneficial to the local wildlife. 

The employee-voluntary charity York Cares ran the initiative throughout the month of June, with York businesses volunteering their time and coming together to make a real difference to one of our biggest and most loved green spaces. 

We cannot wait to see the finished product and help to celebrate Rowntree Park’s 100th birthday!

Katy Elliott, Volunteering Support Officer at York Cares said:

"We are so pleased to be able to run the Big Community Challenge in June, to make a transformative difference to Rowntree Park. Many of us have benefitted greatly from spaces like this throughout the pandemic so it is a wonderful opportunity to give something back, whilst also celebrating the park's centenary. It's a fantastic way for colleagues to catch up after many have been working from home for so long and start to transition back to in-person working, which we know many employers are beginning to do."
Abigail Gaines, Friends of Rowntree Park, added::

"Having the York Cares Big Community Challenge focused on Rowntree Park on our centenary year is fantastic. The Friends of Rowntree Park volunteers help maintain and improve the park, but having additional teams of workplace volunteers coming in, focusing on certain tasks and projects, really makes a difference. The teams are helping us start our new wildlife area project and this will be an amazing legacy for the next 100 years." 
Rowntree 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 World War 1. It is famous for its ornamental lake, dovecote, sculpture trail and play areas. It also has an events space, skate park, basketball courts and houses Rowntree Park Tennis Club, Rowntree Park Reading CafĂ©, and York Canoe Club. 

Jennifer Lee, Environment and Communities Officer, City of York Council said: "It’s great to have the York Cares Big Community Challenge taking place in Rowntree Park this year.  2020 was a tough year for the park with four significant floods and Covid.  This meant the Friends of the park and volunteers weren’t able to do as much as they hoped to have the park looking at its best, ready for the centenary which falls in July this year. With all this extra help hopefully, the park will look as good as it should.”

Cllr Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure & Communities at City of York Council said: "Having been created as a memorial to the loss and suffering of WW1 and after a year such as this, it’s wonderful to see Rowntree Park being spruced up in celebration of its centenary. The city’s brilliant volunteers are once again stepping in to benefit all those who enjoy the park, which has been a haven for so many during lockdown. Thank you so much to everyone involved.”

Each year, York Cares holds the Big Community Challenge where teams of volunteers can give back to their local community, where it is needed most. Previous Big Community Challenges have included Clarence Gardens and Tang Hall Community Centre. 

Read more about York Cares and their work in the community here.