Making space for girls – older girls and Rowntree Park

Our original article outlining why there is a need to raise awareness of the lack of use of parks by older girls – The Right to Equal Play – can be found here.  This was influenced by the work of Make Space for Girls, whose initial aims include raising awareness of the issue and gathering more research.  Over the last year there has been further research on older girls’ use of parks, including ours on Rowntree Park in York. In this article we examine what the research suggests and how we can start to improve parks for older girls.

Table of content

Summary of the issue

When asked what play and facilities they have in parks for older children, most councils in the UK would list skateparks, BMX tracks, football pitches and MUGAs. There aren’t many studies of older children and parks, but what there is shows that such facilities are dominated by boys and therefore can’t be said to be ‘gender neutral’ (1).  Delving into the reasons why males dominate these areas and girls stay away is useful, but complex. What is clear is that it is important that the views of young people, including girls, are considered when building new parks or adding new facilities to parks. As it stands, parks are planned and built for the ‘default male citizen’ (2). Councils may not be intending to discriminate, but by not considering the views of girls this is what happens (3). In truth, when looking for play ideas and equipment for older children, councils have a limited catalogue to choose from. It’s possible that what girls want and need may need some thought and some new design ideas. Make Space for Girls have started to explore this (4).

It is worth noting that any improvements based on the views of girls also benefit other groups. In addition, when the views of boys are taken into consideration regarding what they’d like to see in parks, current research shows that there are a lot of similarities between boys and girls. Perhaps what are assumed to be facilities for older children are not actually what the majority would choose.

What research shows

In younger age groups, the use of parks seems to be fairly equal between boys and girls, especially when parents are around. But it’s when children start to use facilities alone that girls tend to use parks, or certain areas of them, less.

Research shows that from the age of 8 there are less girls using public parks, and this decreases as girls get older and gain more independence (5). As fewer girls use parks and retreat more to private spaces, this can have a negative impact on physical and mental health. From the age of 10, activity levels drop significantly in girls, until by the age of 13-15, only 8% of girls are meeting physical activity guidelines (6). 

Recent research by Yorkshire Sport Foundation (7) found that parks/green spaces are popular places for teens to hang out in their spare time, with 48% of girls using them regularly,  compared to 63% of boys. Parks ranked second in the places they frequent in their spare time, with shopping centres/shops in the top position (8).  However, the research shows that 59% of girls don’t feel welcome in parks because the spaces are dominated by boys. 

Reasons that influence girls’ use of parks

In this section, the term ‘formal play spaces’ refers to facilities such as skateparks, football pitches, basketball courts, BMX tracks and MUGAs.

A range of reasons/factors can cause this decrease in older girls’ use of parks:

Boys dominate formal play spaces – Studies of school playground behaviour show that boys tend to dominate formal play spaces, and that some girls withdraw/are less active when boys are present. This behaviour has been mirrored in parks (9) . 

‘Territorialism’ – This occurs when people think of a space as belonging to a certain group. It may not just be the users themselves, but others as well. This can be seen in skateparks, where boys and young adults spend time practising their skills and hanging out with friends. It may not be the boys themselves who are working to keep out other users, but more that the perception is that the skatepark is for males. ‘Territorialism’ teaches boys to see the public space as theirs: they grow up seeing other males using the space and there is an assumption. Girls believe that their right to access certain public spaces is dependent on boys allowing them in (10).

Negative treatment – Another reason girls give for not using formal play spaces is the fear of physical contact and negative comments. Feedback from skateparks points at similar reasons – girls don’t like the competitive element and fear criticism and taunting, or being pushed out of the way, making them feel they shouldn’t be there. Also cited is the fear of being mocked for getting sweaty/red in the face when exercising (11).

Safety – A Girlguiding study showed that over 40% of girls aged between 11 and 21 feel unsafe when they go outside, and a third are worried about doing things outside (11). In the Yorkshire Sport Foundation study, just under a third of girls said not feeling safe stops them from using parks (12).  The presence of boys significantly increases girls’ safety concerns to 51%, with 41% of girls worried about harassment from boys. This stems from girls’ experiences with boys in school and the wider community (13).  Our own research in Rowntree Park found that half the girls surveyed felt unsafe in the park.

Girls feel they shouldn’t be in play parks/or that there are a lack of facilities for them – Older girls have cited that they’d like to use play parks, especially swings and climbing equipment, but they feel they aren’t meant for people their age. This was clear in our research.  Girls perceive that parents of younger children are looking at them, thinking that they shouldn’t be there.  A few girls we spoke to said they’d actually had a parent say something along those lines. The girls feel bad when little children want to use the equipment so they move aside. The Yorkshire Sport Foundation study states that parks don’t meet the needs of the majority of girls, with 68% of girls saying there is nothing for them to do or that park space and equipment tends to cater to boys’ physical activity needs (14). 

The above feedback is from research in Rowntree Park

Social expectations – There are numerous factors that interplay here, but to keep it simple, girls have been socialised into certain norms. Behaviour and activities linked to formal play spaces don’t correlate with these.  Additionally, parents can be more cautious about girls going out alone or to public places. In addition, 73% of girls in the Yorkshire Sport Foundation study said they stop being active if people are watching for fear of being scrutinised (15).

Other reasons given include:

  • Lack of facilities or maintained facilities such as toilets (important for girls navigating puberty)
  • Lack of knowledge of how to engage with activities/facilities.

The importance of ‘play’ and design of areas for play

Play is so important for children’s development from an early age. Exercising while young benefits girls and reduces the chance of osteoporosis in later life. Children learn social skills through play as well as developing physical skills such as balance. Girls need equal access to ways to develop these skills.  Therefore considering inclusive playgrounds in schools or childcare settings, as well as public parks, is important. 

Quite often school playgrounds can become dominated by boys playing football. In general, the boys have the central space with the football field, the basketball court, or games that require expression, that is to say to run, to take up space… and the girls, without realising it, will put themselves in the spaces that are left for them…  Having less room to play, not being able to play what you want because you are a girl, or a boy who is not conforming enough, makes playgrounds hierarchical. You can only enter the space if engaging with the game happening there” (16). Girls are often found at the side but are happy to utilise the space if the area is cleared for games like tag, running or doing cartwheels. Barcelona architects Equal Saree designed an inclusive school playground (not football-dominated)  aimed at ages 6-12. They found boys and girls play more together if one group doesn’t take over a space. In the playground they created there were lots of separate varied areas.

This idea continues in parks. It’s been argued that areas designated for a certain activity such as football, skating, basketball etc become claimed by boys. Girls don’t tend to use these areas as they are less keen on the competitive sports element, as pushing, hitting and/or banter are likely.  If an area that was previously designated to something like football is taken away, boys see it as unfair. They see it as their right to have this area – but it’s less clear how this understanding of ‘right’ has happened.  If the space is not designated to a specific activity and there is flexibility with choices of things to play, then equal play seems more likely and play is more likely to be co-constructed (17).  Therefore when planning for parks or improving parks, these are useful ideas to keep in mind.

How do older girls use parks?

The Yorkshire Sport Foundation research highlighted that parks are somewhere girls would go in their spare time. They mainly use parks to socialise (67%), walk (67%) and play on park equipment (45%). Conversely, boys are more likely to participate in vigorous activity including organised sport, bike riding and running (18).

From our own initial research on Rowntree Park, we found that 70% of older girls still use the play parks. 44% like the natural areas such as the woods, ponds and wildlife area, and  33% like the large open spaces (grass and amphitheatre), whereas only 12% said they use the skatepark and 8% the basketball courts.

When asked in more detail what play park equipment they use, the following scored most highly:

  • 100% swings
  • 78% zip line
  • 61% Climbing equipment/agility equipment

How can you improve parks for older girls?

There needs to be a lot more research into this area. However, from feedback globally, nationally and locally, some key themes are emerging that should be considered when planning or improving parks:

  • Free space with some areas not designated for specific activities
  • Benches – round picnic ones/ones organised socially facing one another.
  • Swings – normal, basket and group swings that face one another.
  • Shelters (with benches ideally)
  • Nature
  • Climbing/agility equipment
  • Lighting
  • Good facilities (like toilets) and clean maintained parks.

How do the views of older boys and girls for improving parks compare?

Studies of younger children and playgrounds show that when formal areas are removed and opportunities for play are more varied, boys and girls play more together and spaces aren’t dominated by one over the other.

Interestingly, research emerging on parks also emphasises that ‘ideal parks’ for older boys and girls are not that different. When Yorkshire Sport Foundation asked those in their study what would help encourage them do more sport and exercise in their areas, the results showed that trampolines were wanted the most by both groups (70% girls/53% boys), followed by things such as play equipment for older children (63% girls/48% boys), then swings (72% girls/39% boys). 

Facilities like skateparks were wanted by 31% of both boys and girls. Boys did rate BMX tracks, MUGAS and gym equipment higher than girls.  Interestingly, nature trails/woods scored quite highly (38% girls/34% boys), indicating that connecting with nature is valued (19).

Rowntree Park: What do older girls like and dislike about it?

Rowntree Park is a park 15 minutes from the centre of York, managed by the city council but with a strong Friends group. Due to a reduction of council funding for parks over recent years, the Friends help maintain certain areas of the park.  In addition, we run a range of activities, events and projects for the community and are passionate about the park.  We aren’t designing a park from scratch as the park already exists, so what we can do is look at our park and consider what does and doesn’t work for girls, and consider their views on what we could do to improve things. To be able to make changes to the park, we need support from the council who oversee the areas as a whole. We have this support in principle, though any plans for changes are down to us to come up with and look for relevant funding, the council will help and support where possible.

The park is fairly large with a skatepark, basketball court, tennis courts, table tennis area, toilets, railed picnic gardens, a railed play park and a smaller play park aimed at ages 8 and over.  There are also ponds, a library/cafe, a tarmacked amphitheatre/stage area, a woodland area with a log story circle, and a new wildlife area being developed.  The space is quite open and formal in the main park, with lots of wide paths and benches throughout. The wildlife areas are on the southern edge of the park.  What is important to note is that feedback from engagement over the past 12 months shows there are lots of things about the park that older girls do like.  However, there is always room for improvement and that’s what we are looking at.

What older girls currently like/use:

  • Circular picnic benches to sit and talk to friends
  • Swings and climbing equipment 
  • Engaging in nature – seeing the plants, flowers, trees, wildlife.
  • Open spaces such as the amphitheatre/stage, where you can rollerblade/cycle/perform/ or just sit.
  • Open spaces like the railed gardens – a space to play but with places to sit and chat (around picnic benches).
  • Wildlife area/pond dipping area and story circle (but only with friends as these areas are tucked away).

In addition to the physical features in the park it’s been noted that the girls like the park to have a range of ages in it. They also like seeing the park as a community venue – we have activities such as dance classes, pilates and yoga, Tai Chi, music events, forest school, and more. Although most of these classes/activities are not aimed at older girls, girls like seeing the activities happening as it makes the park feel welcoming and safer for them. One local girl gets out and about around the park alone or with friends looking for ‘Pokemon Spots’ after school and in the early evenings – having this app on her phone encourages her to go for walks.

 What older girls don’t like/don’t use:

  • The majority won’t use the skatepark/basketball courts as there are too many boys, and the areas are enclosed/caged so they seem unwelcoming.
  • Toilets can be unclean/vandalised
  • They feel they shouldn’t be in the small play park where the swings are or other equipment that they might want to use.
  • They feel less safe in the evenings as there are less adults about – the basketball courts and skateparks get busier and large groups of boys are more likely to be around.

It’s been suggested that things to look at and things to do makes the park more interesting. We do have tree trails and art in the park. Feedback has suggested that information boards work better for trails than having to pick up a leaflet to do them.

Rowntree Park: What older girls would like to see

  • More swings and climbing equipment added (but not in small children’s play area)
  • More benches near play areas (circular picnic benches were suggested).
  • Girl-only activities/sports led by a female
  • Having their views/suggestions considered and being involved in making change (thus feeling part of the community).

As mentioned at the start of this article, the suggestions made by local girls are currently based on limited knowledge of what a park could include. It is possible that designs in the future will be shaped by girls’ feedback regarding what they enjoy. We aim to continue to follow up our initial research with wider groups.

Rowntree Park: What have we done, what are we doing, and what next?

What have we done so far:

  • Online survey on the park in general (Aug 2021)
  • Girls in-person session (Oct 2021)
  • Raising awareness of general issues and what we are doing via press, radio, blogs and social media.
  • Talking to our local MP
  • Talking to the council 
  • Supporting others getting started on similar projects in their own local area, including councils.
  • Running ‘Wild Ones’ sessions for girls 10-16 (started Sept 2021)
  • Applying for funding for equipment

What are we currently doing, and what’s next?

Our aim is to look at improving the park in general for older girls, but later we may also focus on the skatepark and basketball courts and what could be done to encourage girls to use these more.

The original vision, which we still hold,  was to see if we can involve local girls in all stages of the project where possible. This includes raising awareness, what changes they’d like, funding applications and so on. This is something we hope to continue to do. For us, it’s a gradual process of making improvements to our park: change may be piecemeal but each step will hopefully make a difference. 

New Equipment
We applied for local ward funding in June 2022, and have been granted some money toward a basket swing and some benches. The Public Realms department of the council are going to support us with the finances for installation. These new facilities will be installed near the older children’s play area.  This area was chosen by local girls as they feel it’s open, in sight of the small play park (and therefore adults) but it’s also an area that is theirs.

Girls-only group
We have also been running a weekday evening session for girls aged 10-16 since September 2021. This has proved popular, with great feedback. The group takes place in our small wooded area and is based around nature activities. Examples include whittling wood, foraging, and nature art and crafts. The group is advertised as a safe space for girls to talk, meet new people, develop confidence and resilience and of course, engage with nature.  We have lots of hammocks hung between the trees and these are so popular! The girls love just hanging out and talking as they swing.  These sessions have been run as part of our wellbeing programme and funded by a grant from the LNER community investment fund. Seeing the girls in the park in the evening as a safe space and helping them develop skills and interests linked to nature and our park means they feel it’s their place. Hopefully this helps them see the park as a diverse place, and that there is more to it than just the formal areas.


More girl groups
We are considering running dance classes for older girls, inspired by social media trends. We looked into running girls-only skate skill sessions, but the facilitator we had in mind is no longer able to run them. But this is something we’d still like to do if the right people are out there and interested.

The ideal is equal use of the park and facilities. However, by getting more older girls into the park and them seeing it as a welcoming space, their space, will hopefully lead to change along the line.

More research
Over the next few months the following will take place:

  • A further survey (to follow up and focus on specific areas)
  • Social observations/data collection on use of areas of the park including the skatepark and basketball court
  • Focus groups

We will see what this research shows and this will guide the direction that things then take. It will also depend on who gets involved and the ideas that emerge.

Abigail Gaines – Friends of Rowntree Park.

This project is led by volunteers from the Friends of Rowntree Park with an interest in making a difference. We are not academics or professional researchers, but we hope the work we are doing is of interest and makes a difference to our local community.  We welcome anyone to get involved and help shape the project.

Thanks to:

Make Space for Girls for inspiration, support and continuing to share relevant research.
LNER – Investment and community fund who fund our wellbeing programme that includes the group for older girls.
Micklegate Ward – for funding a basket swing and benches.
Dave Meigh – Public Realms York City Council for agreeing to support us in getting new equipment in place.
Yorkshire Sport Foundation report – Make space for us– with research undertaken by Women in Sport.

References:

  1. Default male citizens – those making decisions are often men and without seeking views of others, decisions reflect their bias whether intentional or not.
  2. Referencing our original article – ‘The right to equal play’ August 2021
  3. Make Space for Girls – https://makespaceforgirls.co.uk/
  4. Stockholm University 2012/ White Arkitekter. Flickrum – Places for girls. 2018 https://whitearkitekter.com/project/places-for-girls/
  5. Puberty and Sport: An Invisible Stage, Women in Sport, (cited ‘Make Space for Girls’ – Summary of research findings December 2020’
  6. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ research undertaken by Women in Sport. The research set out to understand the use of three parks across South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire among teenage girls to understand how girls feel about being active outdoors in their local parks and green spaces) . ‘Make space for us’ (June 2022,  p4).
    https://www.yorkshiresport.org/wp-content/uploads/Make-Space-for-Us_small.pdf
  7. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p6.
  8. Edith Maruéjoulos.  Cited:
    https://world.edu/school-diversity-what-can-gender-neutral-playgrounds-bring/
  9. Thompson, 2005, P64
  10. Friends of Rowntree Park focus group feedback, Oct 2021.
  11. Girls Attitudes Survey 2019, Girlguiding.
  12. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p16.
  13. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p15.
  14. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p17.
  15. Edith Maruéjoulos cited https://world.edu/school-diversity-what-can-gender-neutral-playgrounds-bring/
  16. Visible Women podcast- Caroline Criado Perez https://www.tortoisemedia.com/audio/visible-women-caroline-criado-perez-episode-2/
  17. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p12.
  18. Yorkshire Sport Foundation ‘Make Space for us’ June 2022, p30.

Please note – more detailed feedback from the initial survey and focus groups on the skatepark will be shared at a later date and the hope is to do some follow up work on this too as and when time allows.

Orienteering in Rowntree Park – June 2022

 Orienteering for all!

EBOR logo.gif   WEDNESDAY 29TH JUNE 2022, start between 6.30 – 7.15pm

EBORienteers Event 
Join in the fun, challenge and educational experience of orienteering in & around the park. This event aims to appeal to young children and families as well as to experienced orienteers.Low cost: only Seniors £3.00 and Juniors £2.00, plus free dibber hire. 

Terrain & facilities:  
Flat parkland with many attractive features, small areas of woods, grass land and a lake. Toilets, play facilities and a car park in the park (parking fees payable at the ticket machine)

Three courses to try:
participants can take part individually, in pairs or in groups
A: Accessible: 9 flags to find all on paths and accessible for wheelchairs & buggies.       1.0k
 B: Harder:      15 flags to find in a variety of nooks and crannies all within the park.       1.5k
C: Senior:       22 flags in the park & also around the streets, woods and fields nearby   3.5k 

Starts: between 6.30 – 7.15pm. Courses close at 8pm.Please re-cycle maps to enable second runs for anyone who wants to try another course.
Fees:
Seniors £3.00; Juniors £2.00.  (pre-enter to reserve maps but pay on the day)You can try up to 3 courses for one fee.Dibber hire free but please take care of them,  lost hired dibbers cost £30.00Entries: Pay on the day from 6.00pm. Pre- entries if poss please to: philippuckrin@gmail.co.uk
Results : Will be posted on the Eborienteers website, www.eborienteers.org.uk
 Travelling arrangements The only road access is from Bishopthorpe Road, Butcher Terrace & Terry Avenue. Nearest postcode YO23 1LS.Local participants please travel by foot or bicycle where possible.
Planner – Phil Puckrin 01904 654302
 Information & entries: Philip Puckrin  Email:  philippuckrin@gmail.co.uk or info@eborienteers.org.uk

Art in the Park 2022

‘Art in the Park’ started in 2021, Rowntree Park’s Centenary year. Artists created a piece of work inspired by a decade/art movement of the last 100 years and Rowntree Park. The work was displayed in the park and has been admired by many. We are launching ‘Art in the Park’ 2022 and would love people to get involved! The theme is ‘Wild Rowntree Park’. The information below is for those interested in finding out more…

What art forms can be submitted?

In 2021, all art had to be submitted digitally  so we could have it printed onto A2 composite boards that were attached to the railings in the centre of the park. 

As this is a project run by a volunteer, this was the simplest and most effective way to get art up in the park.  A couple of artists took photographs of their art and this is what was printed.  However, that is not to say other art forms can’t be considered. If you have suggestions and can work out how to display your art outside (and fix it in a secure manner) then it could be possible.  As this is a public park, it is possible things can get damaged so you need to be aware of this. The artwork is displayed outside.

All digital submissions should be JPEG. Ideally minimum of 3000 pixels along the long edge. Your image will be put onto a board with a white border with the name of the piece, your name and also a website/social media handle. 

Who can submit

You can be an artist, or an enthusiast, of any age.  However, we reserve the right to choose the art work we will display. There is no guarantee all work submitted will be used. We will let you know if your artwork is to be displayed.

Deadline

It would be good to get the art up for the summer. The deadline for submissions is June 26th 2022. The work would go to print the following week (Mon 27th) and be up by mid July. Please feel free to submit work before the deadline to hello@rowntreepark.org.uk

What next:

Please complete this form to register interest and fill any info you have at this time.

Please note:

Art in the Park is run by a volunteer who also manages a lot of the other projects, activities and events in the park.  Time is limited so please be patient with replies to emails. If you do have suggestions, technical knowledge or want to help (or run the whole thing) – get in touch!

Extra-  can you help?

We have sold tote bags for the last 3 years which have helped raise funds for our work in maintaining and improving the park.  We’d like to have a new design.  If you are interested in helping create a design for the bags, we’d love to hear from you. Ideally it needs to be something iconic, simple and can be printed in one colour (as more colour means more costly!) If you have some ideas or would like to be involved, contact abigail at hello@rowntreepark.org.uk

Winter Trees in Rowntree Park

Conifer appreciation!

When most trees lose their leaves in winter, conifers really stand out. We have a range of conifers in Rowntree Park that stay green all year (and also some other trees such as Holly). Because the green is easy to spot in winter months, why not use our handy identification sheet to spot the conifers in the park.

This identification sheet was created by our charity manager, abigail, who also creates nature resources for families in her spare time. Download to your phone or print at home and take it out and about with you when next in Rowntree Park. Adds a twist to a walk and is great fun for all ages!

We love to see your photos of tress, plants, wildlife and anything beautiful you spot in the park – please do share! You can email us at hello@rowntreepark.org.uk or tag us on social media.

Squirrel wars!

Image by Ellie at NutkinAvenue Illustrations (Friends of Rowntree Park volunteer and squirrel fan!)

Friend or fiend?

We are very fortunate that our park is alive with wildlife, there’s a variety of bird life in the water and woodland. We like to help our feathered friends when the weather gets a bit chillier by putting up a few feeding stations, and this year is no exception. However, the presence of our bird feeders often gets unwanted attention from certain furry friends…

The Park is the perfect squirrel playground, and our rodent residents are quite unphased by humans! They join people for their picnics (invited or otherwise!) and show off with their charmingly cute antics. But in reality these playful, plump critters are shrewd scavengers…

Eating EVERYTHING they find!

So far this Autumn not only have the Rowntree Park squirrel squad been pinching the bird food, but they’ve actually been eating the bird feeders too! We’ve had to have our wits about us and launch counter attacks to preserve the bird food to take us through the Winter. Squirrel proof bird feeding stations can be expensive, so we’ve gone with a DIY approach for now and it’s a really easy and economical way to protect your feeders. 

Stop the squirrels!

It’s a hack that is quite common on the internet in the eternal squirrel wars. Simply drill a hole in an old mixing bowl and allow that to sit over the top of the bird feeder. It creates a protective umbrella allowing access for the birds underneath. Similar ideas use a large pop bottle that encase the bird feeder, but leaves a gap for the birds to still access food at the bottom. We’ve tried to place our hanging feeding stations away from over hanging branches to avoid sneaky sideways squirrel raids and we have also added grease to the poles of the bird stations that are on stakes in the ground. 

However, with all this said, we know that as soon as squirrel bellies begin to rumble the sneaky squirrels will be scheduling a strategy convention to devise new tactics to get their paws on that bird food.

If you have any top tips or want to help create squirrel proof bird feeding stations, we’d love to hear from you!

Drop us a line at hello@rowntreepark.org.uk and we will put you in touch with Vikki.

Children’s Christmas Craft Packs 2021

Have yourselves some festive fun with our Christmas craft packs for children. A perfect pack for you to use in a lovely ‘crafternoon’ together. A fun family activity and festive to boot!



The pack includes:
A wooden lantern – build and decorate (LED candle included)
2 Wooden 3D hanging stars to decorate
2 wood slices – 1 to decorate as a hanging decoration and the other pre drilled to weave a Christmas star.
Some pine cones, orange slices, cinnamon sticks and twine to create your own natural hanging decorations.


Profits from the packs go to friends of Rowntree Park. The packs have been put together for us by Catkin & Co and are sold through their online shop for just £15. The packs can be collected from the park on the following dates or picked up from an address near the park. It is also possible to select postage and packaging at checkout if preferred.

Dates to collect packs from the park:
Saturday 27th of November 10-12pm
Saturday 4th December 10-12pm

There are only a limited number of packs available. The packs we created sold well last year.

Calendar 2022 – Rowntree Park

We are excited to share with you our calendar for 2022. Featuring a range of designs from ‘Art in the Park’ – this was a project that challenged local artists to create an image of Rowntree Park influenced by an art style or decade of the last 100 to celebrate Rowntree Park’s centenary year.

This A4 calendar will look stylish in your home or make a fantastic gift for others this Christmas. A perfect gift for lovers of Rowntree park that also raises funds for the Friends of Rowntree park at the same time.

Calendars are only £12 and can be bought using the link below. Please note that the price reflects printing costs (we can’t do in bulk as a small charity) and also aims to raise some funds for the charity. We really appreciate your support. Please read….

If local, you can collect your calendar from a house near the park (we will email you details) or you can opt to add postage and packaging. see link below:


For more on our Children’s Christmas Craft Kits for sale, see here.

We also have other merchandise that can also be bought and collected on the same dates:
– A4 Limited Edition Prints
– A5 Notecards
– Children’s Christmas Craft Packs – see here to buy

Gift Membership can be bought online. If you buy a gift membership you get a link to send to the recipient to activate their account. You can also purchase gift membership with a greeting card (this card would need to be collected from a house near the park).

The following items can also be bought and collected from the stall on the dates and times above:

Rowntree Park Cotton Tote Bag£3Buy
Rowntree Park Insulated Travel Mug£3Buy

Thank you to all the artists who have been involved in the ‘Art in the Park’ project, and to Elliot Harrison who put together the calendar for us.

Artists include:
Ellie Lewis – Instagram @nutkinavenue_illustrations/
Leon François Dumont – www.LFDumont.art

Adele Karmazyn – www.adelekarmazyn.com
Helen J Atkinson- helenjatkinson.co.uk
Guy Ruston -Instagram @guyrustondesign
Emma Frost- emma-frost.co.uk
Kelly Lewis – Instagram: @hairylemonsdesign
Lucie Ware- www.lucieware.org
Elliot Harrison – Instagram.com/York.360
Gillian Dodsworth – https://www.facebook.com/Art-by-Gillian-Dodsworth
Heather Dawes
Elaine Potter 
Mandi Grant – mandasgrant@yahoo.co.uk
John G Uttley
Tyria Fritian-Franks 




Members Survey Autumn 2021

The FRP have just over 800 members. Around 240 completed the survey. The age range of respondents wasn’t collected but from the data we do have – the majority (around 65%) of members are over 50. However we cannot comment on the age range who completed the survey as age wasn’t asked on this occasion. 
Also we know that only 53% of our members are from the YO23 area (located near the park), we have members from across the city and further afield.
We do not have other data at present that may be useful in our analysis and will aim to collect such data in the future, if people are willing to share.

Q-  I am aware of what the aims of the Friends of Rowntree Park are and what comes under their remit and what is the council’s responsibility

You can find out more here

Q – I’m aware of the areas that the FRP garden

You can find out more here

Q- I have been a FRP member for…

Q-  I volunteer, or have volunteered, with FRP

If you’d like to register interest in volunteering, you can do so here

Q- Which of the following areas of the FRP work do you see as the most important? – (people prioritised and could pick more than one)

Answers ordered:

Gardening 80%
Communicating what is happening in Rowntree Park 80%
Communicating with CYC on maintenance issues75%
Development of new wildlife areas70%
Litter63%
MHWB programmes63%
Goose Maintenance63%
Children’s events/education60%
Organising events in the park by outside providers60%
Trying to get funding for the lodge to become a community building 55%
Duck food 48%
Projects in the park like Words from a bench/art45%
Adults events 40%
Trails around the park (such as Tree trails)40%
Adding new physical features (railings, benches etc)31%
Bird feeding 22%

*Please note that gardening, litter, new equipment/facilities as well as goose maintenance to some extent(H&S in the park) all used to be CYC responsibilities but budget cuts have affected these areas.

Q- Please use this space to explain what area of the FRP work you see as the most important one(s) in your view:

Many said it’s hard to pick as all are so important and some comments stated they were impressed with what we manage to do with such small capacity/funding. Not all feedback is below, but these comments highlight main areas:

  • Gardening
  • Litter
  • Geese (we lack volunteers!)
  • Getting CYC to do its job
  • Children’s events and educating for the future regarding nature/conservation
  • Wildlife developments
  • Community events and projects – creating community feel

Q – If the FRP got more volunteers and people to lead on new areas (and funding) – what sorts of things would you like to see happening in Rowntree Park that the FRP could help facilitate?

These views are useful and some are possible if more volunteers come on board and people want to lead projects. Please see additional notes for the ones in italics
ASB patrols
More kids events and community events
Pond clearing
Talks
More theatre/music
‘How to’ garden sessions
More MHWB
Wildlife areas and studies of wildlife in the park
More for older primary aged kids and teens
Play equipment
Girl skate sessions
Skate park to be less intimidating picnic tables for older kids and also things to encourage older girls
Bigger events like arts markets and events with info stalls
Pond monitors selling duck food/more focus on education of not feeding geese
Bring back bowling green
Propagating and selling plants (we are actually trying to do this!)
Cascade (CYC area at present)
Model boats regattas
Outdoor shelters for events/music/renovate pavilion
Sheltered seating
Primary school links (we have some but would love to have time to develop)
Disabled access in skate park/play parks (toilet at events)
FS for disabled children
Events to help fund FRP (we do but welcome more!)
Story telling
Developing disused buildings in the park
More on heritage of the park
Rose garden improvements
Women only sessions
Opportunities for teens to play music on the stage
Vegetable patch
FRP gardeners to care for more areas (as CYC areas look bad) – no capacity to do so

Please see here for more info on areas in italics.

Q-  Newsletter – thoughts?

The majority like it as it is with the detail and want it monthly. However some said less on events other said more! Some said less pictures some said more – so balances out! Also volunteer profiles suggested.

Suggestions included linking to elsewhere with photos or more info (like history of park) so people interested can look. However this involves time to get additional stuff on the website – need volunteers for this! All takes time.Its a good idea but currently we lack the capacity.

Q – Do you use any of the following to keep up to date with what the Friends of Rowntree Park are doing and what is happening in the park?

Most see posters in the park and cafe and also see via FB. Twitter, instagram and other websites/newsletters less so.

Additional information:

There is still some confusion about groups linked to Rowntree Park. The cafe and Tennis Club are separate from the Friends of Rowntree Park. Please see here for more info on the various groups linked to the park, FRP remit and CYC responsibilities.

Other area’s people asked about include:

-Bowling Greens
Outdoor Shelters/events spaces
Disused buildings

Please see here for more information on the above and additional points raised by the survey.

Signs of Autumn Hunt

Why not head out looking for the signs of Autumn in Rowntree Park? Catkin & Co in conjunction with the Young Friends of Rowntree park have produced this FREE hunt sheet that you can download here. We have also have some copies we left at the cafe for you to pick up.

Catkin & Co create nature based kits and resources for to help nurture a love of nature in children. Items ordered can be posted or you can pick them up from right next to the park (where Catkin & co are based).

Catkin & Co have also produced some special Potions Kits specifically for the Friends of Rowntree Park to help raise some money for our charity. You can see the kits here

The Friends of Rowntree park run a number fo activities and sessions to help engage children with nature. These include regular Forest Schools, the Very Young Friends meet ups as well as ‘one off’ special events through the year based on topics such as Autumn Art, halloween, natural Christmas Crafting, Woodland Fairy Folk days and much more!

Girls and public parks – how you can make a difference?

Following on from my article ‘The right to equal play’ that focuses on girls and public parks, I wanted to share with you some information that may be of interest to anyone else who feels inspired to start looking at how they can make a difference to older girls in their own park but doesn’t know where to start, or what they could do.

Girls and public parks

A brief bit of background – the right to equal play

You can read my original article here about why I thought it was important to start researching older girls’ views on my local park, Rowntree Park in York. And why it’s important that councils, planners, designers and the like need to get the views of older girls when planning or adding to parks (also check out Make Space for Girls).

A brief summary ….council’s choice of facilities for older children tends to be skateparks, MUGAs, and BMX tracks which are often planned with the ‘default male citizen’ in mind. They become dominated by males. We need to raise awareness that councils should be getting the views of older girls when planning new parks or additional features. Research shows that after the age of 8 girls tend to use public parks less, and that girls are 10 times more likely to feel insecure in such places. This is partly because of social norms, but also because parks are not designed or equipped to encourage girls to use parks.  Therefore if we look at what changes we could make to the design of parks, or the facilities on offer, then it is a step toward encouraging more equal use of public parks.  There is of course a lot more to it than just facilities, but it is the facilities we can practically focus on whilst at the same time continuing to push for societal changes.

Raising awareness amongst councillors and designers that the views of girls should be taken into consideration when planning or redesigning parks is key. However, how do you do this? How can you go about making a difference?  There is no one way, but below I share with you how I’m approaching things and any advice I can share from what I know. I’m no expert, but it’s a journey that may be useful to others thinking about setting out and asking themselves ‘what can I do?’.

What can you do?

This depends on your starting point. If you are part of the council then this is less of a challenge to start making a difference. However if you are just an interested party then there are various ways you could go about seeing if change can happen. 

Friends of Parks –   I’m a volunteer with a ‘Friends of Park’ group and therefore over the last couple of years I have found out more about what the council does and doesn’t do in our park and what us as volunteers can do.  If you want changes in a local park, find out if there is a ‘Friends of Park’ group and drop them a line. Don’t expect them to know the answers, many are just small groups of people but they’d probably welcome someone passionate to get involved in a project like this and would support you where they can. For example, Friends groups have links to the council and know who to chat with.

My own ‘Friends of Park’ group has grown over the last few years and two years ago we became a charity. Even before this time we’d started to look at what funding was out there to improve our park – we’ve had funding for gardening projects, mental health and wellbeing sessions and much more. As part of this friends group, I will be looking to seek funding via grants and/or business sponsorship for some practical changes as a result of the feedback from older girls. Whether a not for profit group or charity, Friends groups will be able to access some funding you may not be able to as an individual.

Local councillors – find out who your ward councillors are and ask for advice and support into looking into this area. They may have people they can connect you with and/or can find out information for you. They may want to get involved themselves. However, don’t expect them to lead it all as they have many causes to represent.

Contact your council park department– if you do this, do it in a supportive way!  Point out this issues and come up with solutions or ideas on how the council could tackle and look into this.  It’s likely this isn’t an issue they even thought of, so if the information is presented well then you’ll get cogs turning.

What have I done so far?

Online Survey

As a member of a ‘Friends of Park’ group I set up an online survey to get the views of girls aged 10-17.  Using Google forms this is simple and straightforward. This survey was anonymous but emails could be left if they wanted to be involved at a future date.  The survey had to be concise and then the aim is to follow up on more specific areas (such as our skatepark). We used a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches in the questionnaire. If you have the help of a professional researcher with a clear methodological approach, even better. However, if not you can see the kind of things we asked in our survey here – we mixed checkboxes with scales and also areas to expand on answers. In addition, the survey will be used alongside focus groups and case studies. The research would not be representative of all girls in the UK or even our city, but will give us a good idea on girls in our area who use our park.

How to get the online survey out there

Our Friends group has over 800 households as members so we shared the survey via our monthly newsletter, I also shared via social media. I also contacted local secondary schools and asked them to include in their weekly newsletter to parents – you can find school office emails on the school’s websites easily.  I wrote the paragraph of information and asked them to include, so all they had to do was cut and paste to the newsletter. The easier you make things, the more likely people will share them I have found. An ideal would be actually a local school(s) who want to get on board with the project and actually via their PSCHE lesson, or similar, actually get the girls to do the survey and even better run a session. It really depends if a local school is inspired by the project – great chance for their pupils to make a difference.

I also went on the local radio to talk about this. On this occasion they contacted me after being tagged on social media. Previously I have written press releases to get coverage for other park issues and these are often picked up on. Again, no expert on press releases, but I’ll share one that I’m writing when able. The top take away tip is- make it easy for people. Write things for them and they’ll share!

Workshops and Focus Groups

I set up a workshop to encourage older girls to come and share their views on the park. It’s pretty hard to get people involved in this sort of session just by opting in to be fair. I used social media and posters in the park. It was more parents’ interest that was galvanised, and that meant this focus group was mainly aged 10-13.   As the workshop was small and focused around certain ages the next step is working out how to engage others. I’m trying to reach out to local schools and teachers to see if they’d be willing to run brief sessions using the resources I created. Also I’ll be contacting local clubs and groups, all at the same time I’m using social media to try and raise awareness.  It all takes time, and I have to fit this between my full time job and family.

In our skatepark there are some 20-30 year old women who mainly roller skate, many started in lockdown. I know they are role models to some younger girls who feel safer when they are in the skatepark.  Therefore I’ve reached out to them via Instagram to explain more about what I’m trying to and asking if they have ideas/suggestions and want to get involved – the response has been positive, so fingers crossed!  It may also be that I just set up a stall one afternoon in the park and suggest people pop by and share views! I’m going to keep thinking and welcome suggestions.

Where next?

One we have more data then it’s working out what to do with it.  By raising awareness of this cause, I’m hoping girls will get involved in the whole process. That is discussing the summary of feedback and suggesting what changes we could make. From the focus group we’ve already had some suggestions and the survey indicated what features girls want to see in parks.  I’ll aim to compile some of this and see what others think and if they agree. 

Designing parks, re designing or simple additions and changes

In some places, such research may help with new designs of parks or skateparks, but in our park, there will be no major  redesign of the public space. Our council struggles to fund our park as it is – there is no staff based in our large park or any planting that takes place, just basic maintenance. Any new features added over the last few years and events and activities that run are organised by the Friends of Rowntree Park.  Places where new parks or redesigned parks that involve the view of girls are fantastic and inspirational, but for us it’s aiming for some small changes that we feel could still make a difference.

In a way, as a ‘normal’ person – not in the council or with massive funders easy to access- small changes are achievable.  So far, feedback shows that our girls want the following in the park:  Equipment like swings, especially larger swings like basket or tyres, and climbing frames but away from the play park aimed for small children. They also want round picnic benches nearby.  They want this area to be in an open area, not hidden away, but somewhere they feel they can hang, relax, exercise and chat without feeling they are using equipment aimed at smaller children and feeling ‘guilty’ when they are on it. 

So we can set about researching the costs of such equipment and link in with the council and get their views and feedback – they will be in the ones hopefully fitting it and will need to agree to overall maintenance. I know that our council prefers low maintenance due to costs (roundabouts tend to need repairs often, so they’d be out for example)  and we also need to think carefully as we are a park that floods most winters, so the equipment choices need to take this into account. Also as we are a park with no staff based there, we take this into consideration too. Once we have an idea of equipment and prices and the council in general agreement regarding fitting (we may need to pay for this), then we will set about finding out what funding may be out there. It would be great if designer could offer up options that we’ve not even considered, there is so much potential for redesigning facilities and parks.

Skateparks – how can they be made to be more ‘girl friendly’ and inclusive?

With our skatepark I’m still doing some more research into views but so far there are some suggestions of things we could do. Our skate park is quite small and although outdoors it is in an enclosed wire cage.  It was noted only one gate to it was open, so already we have made sure the council open both gates daily – the knowledge there are two exits make the skatepark feel less intimidating feedback has stated. 

We also have hedges around the cage that blocks the view into the rest of the park, and the view into the skate park. We are considering getting these taken back so the space is opened up. Girls have commented on feeling intimidated as the space is separate and also there are places where older boys drinking have been congregating. If we can get the ‘cage’ taken down then we win a metre width of grassy bank. It’s not much but may be space for some benches. Again, a complaint of our skatepark is that people congregate at the top of the ramps as there is nowhere else to sit and that’s intimidating for others to go up and also they feel they are constantly watched.  Getting some extra space a the side and benches may help avoid this.

Basically, what I’m saying is that small changes will hopefully make a difference to our skate park but we wouldn’t have known such things without getting the views of local girls. We are also looking into girl only skate sessions and ways to involve both male and female skaters who already use the skate park – helping create community. It’s also felt that some girls would feel less intimidated using the space if they’d mastered some basic skills -they’d feel more confident using the space. As it stands, they feel like some of the skilled older boys/men (15-30 approx) dominate and run them off areas when they try to learn, and this stops them wanting to use the space. More to be done and still thinking…

Finding funding

There are lots of smaller grants out there and currently many mention social isolation and mental health and wellbeing.  I feel that girls and public park improvements fit here well. There is also sports funding, as there is a good link with physical and mental health. There will be others too, local ward funding may be worth investigating.  Through piecemeal funding I think we could start to get some equipment. It may be that we even look at business sponsors for equipment or round benches.

Again, being linked to a ‘Friends of Park’ group I’ve got some experience of writing funding applications. However if you don’t, it’s likely that in your area there are groups and organisations who can support this. In York, we have the CVS who offer workshops and guidance and this has helped us in the past. You may be able to get a professional bid writer on board as a volunteer – you don’t know until you ask!

Involving girls through out

My ideal is to involve the older girls throughout. From their initial thoughts and suggestions, to choosing equipment and locations, to helping raise awareness and helping find funding. By supporting them they will be more equipped in the future to know they can create change.

How can local people help?

I have had a few people get in touch and ask how they can help and also received some great messages of support.  So far I have suggested things like looking into what funding/grants are out there, help designing research, help with communications/press releases to raise awareness  and the like. I’ve also had some chats with people interested in running some girls skills skate sessions. I love how the project is evolving but I do need help and welcome it.

Summary

I’d love to hear from anyone else looking into a similar area and exchanging ideas and supporting one another.  Make Space for Girls has been a great source of inspiration and support.

Further information

I will aim to add more information as and when able on the following:

  • Details of the focus group session
  • Information on our main findings from the survey and focus group
  • Press release example
  • Ideas on grants and funding

Rowntree Park is a large memorial park in York, around 20 minutes walk from the city centre. It includes lakes, play parks, a skate park a basketball court, woodland areas and a ampitheatre, amongst other features. There is also a cafe and tennis courts but these are maintained by other groups than the Friends or the council.

Abigail Gaines – October 2021