‘Make Space for Girls’ June programme of events in Rowntree Park celebration!

Through June 2023 we have been running a programme of events and activities in Rowntree Park aimed at older girls. The focus is on empowering teenage girls and expanding their access to public spaces, and as part of their ongoing project on making the park more ‘welcoming’ to older girls.

The month long programme of free events has included a range of sports and dance, arts and crafts, theatre and music, as well as nature based activities and conservation work. Over 250 girls have been involved and had the chance to try new things, meet new people, and have los of fun!

The project has been funded by the Friends of Rowntree Park, along with some support from the Micklegate Ward. We are looking for continued funding to be able to continue with the overall project that has two key objectives at present:
-Getting new equipment requested by girls.
-More events and activities aimed at girls & women.

“We want to create a space where girls can feel safe, confident, and empowered to be themselves. We believe that every girl deserves access to public spaces and the opportunities they offer. Our events aim to inspire girls, build supportive networks with other girls and women, and try to change the fact that girls’ use of parks drops as they get older.”

Abigail Gaines – FRP Charity manager and Creator of the ‘Older Girls’ project.

Take a look at some of the photos over the last month, and read on for why we are doing this project, what happens next, and how you can support!

Why do we need to ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park?

Recent studies have shown that girls’ use of public spaces declines from the age of 8, limiting their access to the benefits and opportunities that these spaces offer. Access to parks is beneficial to physical and mental health, therefore making parks welcoming to older girls is important.   The Friend’s work was initially influenced by charity ‘Make Space for Girls’ who seek to raise awareness that when parks are built for older children, the facilities added are not built with girls in mind. How girls use parks, and what they want, is rarely considered.  Therefore the Friends of Rowntree Park have carried out a  range of research to find out what local girls want from their park, and they aim to redress this imbalance by doing what they can to provide a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment.

The Friends of Rowntree Park have been running the ‘Make Space for Us’ project since October 2021.  The focus is on looking at how to get more older girls (aged 10-18 approx) to use the park. We have carried out a range of research and are focusing on two key things at present – new equipment for older girls and more events and activities. Our research also shows that many boys would also benefit from new equipment as our feedback shows many want similar things that girls have asked for – mainly swings, social benches, climbing equipment and agility equipment all away from the play park aimed at smaller children. They want an area where teens feel they are ‘allowed’ to be – where they can ‘play’ and chat with friends.

We are looking for funding for new equipment. If you can sponsor or donate – please do!

We are currently focusing on ‘girls’ and the park, but do recognise there are numerous factors other than being a boy or a girl, that affect park use. There isn’t much research on how other factors affect park usage but hopefully this will start to emerge.

Read more on how to become a ‘Male Ally’ for the ‘make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park project here.

Rowntree Park Lodge – Community venue plans

The Friends of Rowntree Park hosted a Public Consultation on Thursday 28th of September 2023 regarding our plans to create a community space in the former park keepers lodge above the York Explore cafe. The consultation was held in advance of submitting a planning application – which we aim to submit in Autumn 2023.

Please complete our quick online survey so we can get your feedback – here

The Public Consultation

The Exhibition that ran 11-7pm on Thursday 28th of September was very well attended with 150 people attending during the day and 55 attendees at the meeting 7-8.30pm. 

Those attending included York MP Rachael Maskell, Pete Kilbane (Deputy Leader of City of York Council), Katie Lomas (Councillor responsible for overseeing the project’s potential lease to the FRP) and Johnny Crawshaw (Chair of Planning Committee). There were two senior officers from CYC who again have responsibility for the Lodge building at present and the officer responsible for disability access. The CEO of Explore ( York’s Library Service) who run the Rowntree Park Reading Cafe attended along with Trustees and staff members from Explore. 

There was a great deal of positivity with constructive  comments from lots of local people. The plan is to apply for planning approval towards the end of October.

If planning approval is permitted later in the year then a full application will be made to the Community Ownership Fund (COF) for the maximum grant of £300,000 to pay for the development and towards revenue costs. The application was approved at stage 1 in March 2023 but the full application will be made in January 2024 with an estimated timeline for construction of 1 year to hopefully open in Spring 2025. 

Johnny Hayes who is the Lodge project manager announced during the meeting that. ” We applied for an addition “enabling grant” to the COF in August for an additional £10,000 to pay for  the cost of going to planning with our development. We heard just hours before the Exhibition that the COF had awarded FRP with the maximum £10,000. This bodes very well for our application and was excellent news to bring to this meeting.”  

Click here to see information from the display boards that were at the exhibition – including proposed architects plans.

This page will be updated in due course. Many thanks for your continued support for this project. You can read our previous blog setting out why we are doing the project and what it will achieve here.

We are also working with some members of Clements Hall Local History Group who are in the process of producing a new History of Rowntree Park. This will be launched prior to the Lodge opening in  winter 2025. 

Summer events & Activities as part of ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park

On the back of our highly successful June 2023 ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Programme of free events and activities for older girls, we were offered funding from the local council ward to extend the programme through the summer holidays.

Through July and August, we hosted an additional 18 events including dance, art sessions, orienteering, photography, film making and Zine creation. Sessions were well attended, with over 100 individuals involved, and more ‘older girls’ than the June programme. It was great to have an increase in 14-16 year olds involved. It was clear the word about the project is spreading as so many girls could eloquently explain what we are trying to do and how it resonates with them.

The ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park programmes of events and activities in Rowntree Park are focused on making teenage girls feel welcome in the park, and trying to reduce/reverse the drop off of girls use of parks as they get older. The events focus on empowering teenage girls through the opportunity to share views on what makes a welcoming park, try new things and connect with likeminded people.

We are looking for continued funding to be able to continue with the overall project that has two key objectives at present:
-Getting new equipment requested by girls
-More events and activities aimed at girls & women

If you are interested in supporting our project, do get in touch!

Check out some of the highlights of the summer programme below:

Check out the June programme of events and activities here.

Read more about what we are trying to do and why – here

Rowntree Park Lodge – A community building project

The Friends of Rowntree Park hosted a Public Consultation on Thursday 28th of September 2023 regarding our plans to create a community space in the former park keepers lodge above the York Explore cafe. The consultation was held in advance of submitting a planning application – which we aim to submit in Autumn 2023.

Please complete our quick online survey so we can get your feedback – here

You can read the most recent blog regarding the lodge project and the public consultation held at the end of September 2023 here. Many thanks for your continued support for this project.

When:Thursday 28th of September 2023
11am-7pm – Information boards and a chance to speak with the lodge team.
7-9pm – public presentation and question and answer session
Where: Southlands Church.

The Friends of Rowntree Park are excited to announce a landmark event – a public consultation on their visionary proposal to convert the currently vacant former Park Keeper’s Lodge into a dynamic community centre nestled within Rowntree Park.

Scheduled for Thursday, September 21, 2023, this comprehensive daylong consultation will include an illuminating exhibition and a public meeting. The exhibition, hosted at Southlands Church, will feature architectural blueprints, captivating illustrations, innovative business plans, intricate models, and evocative photographs. Doors will be open to visitors from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, followed by a stimulating public meeting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, where residents will be presented with an informative presentation and the opportunity to engage with questions.

The Friends of Rowntree Park aims to breathe new life into the disused space above the York Explore Cafe, transforming it into a communal haven. The Lodge has lain dormant since the departure of the last park keeper in 2017. While initial proposals by the council contemplated utilising the building for short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb, this met with significant opposition from the community.

The Friends have diligently crafted plans for a community space that harmonises with the park’s ethos and its diverse uses. Encompassing disabled access and toilets, sympathetic refurbishments, and environmentally conscious heating options, the design reimagines former residential spaces as areas for public engagement. The adaptable rooms could host group meetings, exhibitions, and a range of intimate events. Moreover, the project will finally provide the Friends of Rowntree Park with a much-needed indoor office and meeting space, catalysing the expansion of their charitable initiatives.

Cath Mortimer, Chair of the Friends of Rowntree Park, shared her enthusiasm: “This project is a remarkable leap towards the future of Rowntree Park and our entire community. Our resources are limited, making grants and donations pivotal for funding. With planning permission as our next step, we are eager to embark on earnest fundraising.”

Abigail Gaines, Charity Manager, added, “Beyond maintaining and enhancing the park’s physicality, the Friends of Rowntree Park oversee crucial projects such as mental health programs, engaging children’s events, collaborations with local schools, and creative endeavours like ‘Art in the Park’ and ‘Make Space for Girls.’ An indoor base within the park would be transformative for our charity, enabling substantial expansion.”

The public consultation is strategically scheduled before the submission of the planning permission application. Aspirations are set high, targeting the unveiling of the versatile community space within Rowntree Park by early 2025. While the project primarily relies on grants and donations, City of York Council will contribute significantly for essential remedial work, mainly asbestos removal between the café and the Park Keeper’s Lodge.

Driven by a commitment to community well-being, the Friends are ardent about utilising the building effectively and making it a community asset. Fears of prolonged vacancy leading to deterioration or vandalism motivate their swift action. Drawing on a poignant example, in 2016, the West Bank Park Lodge faced a similar fate of fire and subsequent demolition due to extended vacancy. The Friends of Rowntree Park, however, are confident that an indoor community space will invigorate the park and enrich the community, a future they eagerly anticipate.


Further information contact:-

Johnny Hayes



Abigail Gaines -Charity Manager  – hello@rowntreepark.org.uk 

How can boys and men support the ‘Make Space for Girls’ project in Rowntree Park?

A few people have asked how they can be an ‘ally’ of our project to make Rowntree Park more ‘welcoming’ to older girls, so below are some ideas on how you can support.

Our ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park is focused on finding ways to make Rowntree Park more welcoming to older girls. The two main ways we are focusing on at present are:
-Trying to get equipment older girls have asked for 
-Getting more events  activities for older girls (such as the June programme of events)

Read on for why we are doing this, and how boys and men can also be supporters of the project.  

Male Allyship for making the park more welcoming to girls and women.

In general allyship is about trying to understand the barriers women/girls face and respecting that it is everyone’s responsibility to change this. It’s important women/girls feel confident to do activities they want, where they want. Therefore we all have a role to play in helping make this happen.

Why are we focusing on older girls and Rowntree Park?

Research shows that after the age of 8, girls’ use of parks drops. Using parks is good for physical and mental health, so we’d like to try to reverse this trend in our park.  Research, including our own,  shows many girls don’t feel ‘safe’ in the park. Safe can mean physical safety,  but also feeling welcome. Therefore anything we can do to make girls feel safer, and want to be in the park, the better.  The reasons why girls use of parks drops as they get older can be for many reasons including seeing facilities as not being ‘for them’ and dominated by boys, wider societal reasons, not feeling ‘safe’ and many more. 

The organisation/charity ‘Make Space for Girls’,  who have influenced our project,  campaign to raise awareness that when councils build facilities for older children they tend to go with what they know – skateparks, basketball courts, MUGAs, and BMX tracks. However, these facilities are often dominated by boys, and therefore can’t be seen as ‘gender neutral’.  Often  older children’s views aren’t considered when new equipment is built. That’s not to say such facilities aren’t well used by some boys, and girls, it’s just that that there  *may* be other things that more people (including older girls) would use.  Therefore we have engaged with local girls over the last two years to get feedback on if/how they use the park, what they like, and ways it could be improved to encourage them to use it more moving forward. From this research came the two key areas we are focusing on at present – equipment girls asked for and more events and activities aimed at them. 

Equity not just equality.

Equity recognises that each person has a different set of circumstances and the right resources and opportunities need to be given to help them reach an equal outcome. This means that it’s not an ‘equal playing field’ and we need to recognise that less older girls use parks than boys and put things in place to get more older girls using the parks.  The overall aim isn’t separate areas for boys and girls, but along the way we may need events and activities that are girls only, and equipment/areas that are created with older girls in mind and things they want. There is also no ‘blame’ on the boys who use facilities in park, but having boys and men understand the perception of many girls, how they can support to make change happen is important.

Running ‘girls’ only events are also useful for helping build up older girls’ confidence and skills. Many girls state they are fearful of exercising/doing activities in public and some of the reasons given are:
-Don’t like getting red/sweaty and fearing others laughing at them
-Fear being knocked out of the way by others with skills
-Scared of large groups of boys together
-Fear negative comments/banter – makes them uncomfortable
-Fear learning something new in front of others as don’t want any comments

Therefore girls only sessions are a useful way of trying to get some girls involved in new things.  Many girls who learn a skill in a girl only session build up their confidence to do that skill in mixed spaces (eg: skating/ball games).  

Our research found many older boys also wanted what local older girls said they wanted. Therefore many groups would benefit from new equipment aimed at older children. However, openly stating that the equipment is aimed at older girls, and what they asked for, helps encourage the girls to feel ‘welcome’ in the park.  

How to be a male ally for the ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park Project.

Give girls and women the space to share their experiences and concerns. Listen actively, without judgement. Show empathy and aim to try to understand their perspectives. For example, try to understand why some girls may want girl only events and/or why some feel uncomfortable using existing areas aimed at older children in Rowntree Park. Some of the reasons we’ve been told include:
-Comments/banter can make girls uncomfortable, and noticed when they’d rather not be noticed. 
-Fearing being bumped or pushed when doing activities like skating and ball sports. 

Therefore you can help by being aware of your own behaviour in the park and how you use the space – when using equipment/skatepark/basketball court do you take turns with others?  When using the space are you respectful of others? Check in with female friends who may be in the space or want to use the space and ask how you can support them. Don’t comment publicly/draw attention to any mistakes or make comments on the skills/activities/appearance of girls using spaces.

2. Challenge stereotypes/question your own behaviour
Be aware of gender stereotypes and work to challenge them. Avoid generalisations or assumptions about gender roles or abilities. Do talk about perceptions and talk about where these have come from and why it’s important not to stereotype and assume.

3. Educate yourself
Take the time to learn about gender equality, women’s issues, and the challenges girls and women face in various aspects of life. Read books, articles, and listen to podcasts or watch documentaries that provide insights into these topics. 

4. Do not be a bystander
If you feel someone is making a girl/girls feel uncomfortable then call that behaviour out! Sometimes others may not realise they are being sexist or making a girl/woman feel uncomfortable, so let them know.

5.Respect personal space
Keep at a respectable distance.  Don’t walk too closely behind girls, be aware if you are in a big group that it may look intimidating to others. Give girls space if they are using the skatepark/basketball court. 

6.Advocate and support
Recognise girls/women’s achievements – complement great things you see/hear. Share stories of women/girls achievements, and perspectives with others. Make an effort to promote and support what they do/have done. Also doing activities together in areas that may be male dominated is a good way to help support. 

7. Lead by example  
Do ask questions and ask female friends how you can be a good ally. Think about your own behaviour and be an ally in all you do and say and model this for others. Be proud to be an ally and tell others you are!

8. Collaborate and support organisations
Collaborate with organisations that promote gender equality and support the empowerment of girls and women. Volunteer your time, donate resources, or contribute your skills to initiatives that aim to create equal opportunities.

Summary – being an ally is an ongoing process

Being an ally is an ongoing process. It requires continuous self-reflection, trying to understand others perspectives, and a commitment to challenging and changing harmful attitudes and behaviours. By actively supporting and ‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park (or any park), you can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society.

Women and girls’ safety in parks

Leeds University hosted an important conference on the 10-11th of May 2023 on the topic of Women and girls’ safety in parks. The Friends of Rowntree Park charity Manager, Abigail Gaines, was a presenter at the event sharing the work she’s been doing on older girls and the park.

The conference was linked to new guidance launched commissioned by the Mayor of West Yorkshire – involving Green Flag, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds University, Make Space for Girls and Keep Britain Tidy.

Abigail, along with Susannah from Make Space for Girls, spoke on Radio 4 ‘Today’ show and BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show on 11th of May to help raise awareness of the issue in general around the need for better, and safer, parks along with the new guidance.

More info:
1. A short video that simply summarises some of the research and guidance.
2. Slides showing the key points of the Friends of Rowntree Park presentation at the
conference (a case study of a group trying to make a difference).
3. Link to the full guidance on ‘Safer Parks’

Abigail Gaines Friends of Rowntree Park - women and girls' safety in parks

More information on the work on older girls and Rowntree Park can be found here.

‘Art in the park’ 2023 – call out for artists!

Would you like to have your art work displayed in Rowntree Park this summer?

After the success of Art in the Park for the last two years, the Friends of Rowntree Park are launching their third year of ‘Art in the Park’ and we are looking for York based/related artists who’d like to submit work based on the loose theme of ‘Rowntree Park through the seasons’.

Artists are asked to register interest using the online form. There is more information on the project and technical info here.

Art in the Park has been incredibly well received by the local community and park users, and artists have also feedback that they’ve loved being involved in the project. We had a range of styles and approaches including mix media, painting, textiles, printing and more! Artists involved over the last two years have included Adele Karmazyn, Leon François Dumont, Emma Frost, Elliot Harrison, Guy Ruston, Donna Taylor, Jane Duke, Rebecca Mason, Emma Feneley and many more! You can see a list 2022 artists here.

The deadline for submissions of the final pieces is by 30th of June 2023. The work will be displayed in the centre from summer 2023 to spring 2024.

To register interest to submit for Art n the Park 2023 click here.
By registering interest, it means we can send more information and remind you of deadlines – it doesn’t mean you are committed! Final pieces need to be submitted by the 30th of June (earlier is welcome).

In addition to this project, the Friends always welcome suggestions and ideas for ‘art’
in the park in general, so please do get in touch.

For more information – contact abigail at hello@rowntreepark.org.uk

Make Space for Girls – June Programme of events in Rowntree Park

Make Space for Us’ – Older Girls and Rowntree Park

Can you help?
We are putting together a programme of events/activities this June in Rowntree Park that is aimed at older girls, and we’d love you to be involved in running a one off event/session or a series of sessions. For why, and what, read on…

‘Make Space for Us’ programme of events – June 2023:

Facilitators – run a session

If you’d like to run an event/session these can be a one off, or a series of things. This would take place on a weekday evening or at a weekend – any date in June. We welcome ideas and suggestions. The sessions would run in an outdoor space. 

Ideally the sessions would be a donation of your time as we’d like to keep events free or low cost to encourage many girls to get involved.  However, depending on the nature/length of the sessions, it may be possible to get payment as we can charge people to attend (we have a ticketing system).  The payment would depend on the amount of tickets sold (via us) minus our fees.  We don’t have external funding for this at present, therefore we will need to look at ways to cover costs and that’s based on discussions with individual facilitators.   We do also hope that through involvement, the girls may opt to get involved in future sessions you run at any venue and raise awareness for your business. 

Deadline for applications to be involved – April 30th

By the end of April we need to start creating the programme in order to give us enough time to get things printed and advertised to make the event the best it can be! 

What we need from you:

  • Suggested dates/times for your event (weekends or evenings in June)
  • Max number of participants
  • Brief blurb on what the event activity is
  • Whether the event is free or you’d like to charge (we can discuss this with you if not sure/what to know more)

Happy to chat more in advance – just get in touch!


The Friends of Rowntree Park have been running the ‘Make Space for Us’ project since October 2021.  The focus is on looking at how to get more older girls (aged 10-18 approx) to use the park.  This work started linked to ‘Make Space for Girls’ who argue that public parks are designed for the default male citizen’ and the views of girls aren’t considered (equipment added for older children often becomes skateparks, MUGAs, BMX tracks and Basketball courts that can’t be seen as gender neutral when dominated by boys). The views of older girls (and boys) are rarely sought when new parks are planned and councils and designers default to what they know.   Research shows that after the age of 10 girls use public parks less and therefore this can affect physical and mental health.  There are numerous reasons as to why girls use of park’s drops, however looking at how to both improve the physical space to make them more welcoming to girls plus having more events/activities aimed at girls should hopefully start to make a difference. 

Our work/ideas have been referred to in some national research over the last year including by Women in  sport (Yorkshire Sport Foundation) and MSG. We have worked with York University Department of Environmental & Geography for the Festival of Social Science (Nov 2022) looking at how girls/women use green and blue spaces. Currently we are involved in a conference/case study with Leeds University Criminology Dept/West Yorkshire Authority/MSG on how to improve the safety of women and girls in Rowntree Park. 

What we’ve done so far and what we’d like to do:

We have carried out a range of research via surveys, observations, drop in sessions and focus groups.  As a result we are looking at physical additions (equipment) and more groups/sessions for girls.

Physical additions:

So far we are seeking funding to get some additional equipment in the park. We would add this near the ‘older children’s playpark’ (based on feedback).   The top suggestions have been basket/group swings, agility and gym equipment. Also some additional ‘social benches’ in the area.  We have secured some funding toward our aim of a swing but as a park that floods, the ground prep and materials to be used add to the costs and we need more to make something happen – a basket swing alone is just over £10,000. Therefore we are looking at potential alternatives and also seeking grants or business funding to support our aim of getting some physical change in the pak based on the feedback and girls groups work on what they’d like.

Changes that benefit girls will hopefully also benefit other users. For example, our most recent survey and feedback has shown that both older boys and girls who use the park have similar equipment wants that include more swings and agility/gym equipment. Although park facilities such as the skatepark and basketball court are well used, this is mainly by boys/men and our research shows that the majority of boys using the park don’t use these facilities and have others they’d prioritise if building a ‘perfect park’.


Secondly, we have also been looking at groups/activities that can be run to bring older girls to the park. In spring 2022 we started ‘Wild Ones’ a group for 10-16 year old girls. It’s a weekly evening term time outdoor youth group with a forest school feel. Activities include hanging in hammocks (very popular), foraging, campfire cooking, agility, orienteering, whittling and nature crafts. This group is continuing to run and proves popular. The same group meets for a term block.   Feedback has shown that older girls like seeing the park busy and especially events like womens dance and exercise classes.  Feedback has stated things like they feel more comfortable and it’s great to see women enjoying themselves whilst doing sports/dance.   Therefore it would be good to get more events and activities aimed at older girls such as sports/exercise and/or the arts/creative things (other ideas welcomed). The aim is to encourage girls to see the park as their space too, develop some skills, and also engage with nature. 

What we’d like:

Physical Features

To find funding/business sponsors to help us be able to get a swing (or similar) and some benches to go in a specific area, as suggested in the feedback.


We’d like to run a programme of events for older girls throughout June 2023 and are looking for:

  • Event organisers (anyone/people willing to take on the overall events organisation and coordination).
  • People willing to run sessions/events


Thank you for taking the time to read this information and showing interest in the project. At this stage, here is no guarantee the programme will run, it depends on interest and costs involved.  However, we’d like people to express interest in being involved so we can work out if this can happen (fingers crossed!)

I keep referring to us/we (FRP) but I currently run the ‘Make Space for Us’ project as a volunteer – I’m abigail (FRP Charity Manager) and you can drop me a line at hello@rowntreepark.org.uk

Read more:

Contact abigail – hello@rowntreepark.

2023 Newsletters

You can read our members newsletters using the months below. The newsletter goes out in the first couple of weeks of each month to keep our members up to date with what is happening in the park. This includes volunteering, events, projects, activities and also any other news relevant to Rowntree Park and its users.

2023 Newsletters

January 2023
February 2023
March 2023
April 2023
May 2023
June 2023
July 2023

2022 Newsletters

January 2022
February 2022
March 2022
April 2022
May 2022
June 2022
July & August 2022
September 2022
October 2022
November 2022
December 2022

2021 Newsletters


Wassailing – Rowntree Park Sunday 5th of February 2023

Wassailing has ancient roots in Britain, but in the 21st century it’s fun to learn about this tradition and create our own version of this old custom.  Therefore on Sunday 15th of January we are holding our own Wassail in Rowntree Park, just before it starts to get dark. We aren’t wassailing ‘experts’, or pagans, but we want to embrace some of this tradition, that is linked to celebrating nature, whilst having a good time with the local community!

Wassailing is all about celebrating apple trees and encouraging  good future harvest.  People go to the fruit trees to wish them health, make lots of noise, and give offerings in the form of food and drink.  

What is wassailing?

There are some different definitions of Wassailing, but the one we are talking about here is ‘orchard wassailing’.  A Wassail is the process of waking the fruit trees from their winter slumber and warding off evil spirits to help make sure of a successful harvest later in the year. It’s also about starting to return to ‘normality’ after the dark midwinter period.

The Term Wassail’ is said to come from the old English ‘ves heil’ which is a toast to your good health (be healthy). Wassailing originated as a Pagan tradition, but has evolved. No two wassails are the same. All over England there is some variety and difference in the Wassails, but the general purpose remains the same.
(Pronounce: Woh-Sa-Ling)

Wassailing is an old twelfth night tradition. Twelfth night is either the 5th of January, or if going by the old Gregorian calendar – 17th of January.  However, today, Wassails tend to be held throughout January/early February. Before industrial times, the festive period was different to what we celebrate now. Advent was a time of fasting, was observed from the 1st to the 24th of December. Christmas would then last 12 days, ending with feasting and revels on the 5th of January – with wassailing a key part of the celebrations.

A wassail typically includes a visit to an orchard/local fruit trees. Some of the following may take place:

  • A procession to get there and lots of singing of Wassail songs/chants and noise making. 
  • The procession may be led by a Wassail king and queen and the commotion is created by banging pots and pans, as well as shouting/singing, whistles and anything that makes noise!  
  • Some people dress up – this sometimes includes a use of nature, but also some as spirits or other things (more on this below).
  •  A warm spiced cider drink is also involved (recipes vary) – usually carried in a Wassail bowl and later shared out.
  • Once at the fruit trees, you start with the oldest tree. Surrounding the tree some ‘wake up’ chants may be said as well as some praise for the tree (some like to  bow to the tree).  The custom continues by using large sticks to beat the trunk and the ground around the tree – this is the process of awakening the tree. Then lots of noise making again!  
  • It may be that a small child is lifted to add an ‘offering’ to the tree such as bread or cheese. This is followed by pieces of toasted bread soaked in the wassail drink and then stuck on branches of the tree and left there. 
  • Some of the drink is then poured on the roots of the tree (and may be drunk by the people involved too!)  The toast is thought to encourage ’good spirits’ such as Robins – basically the birds will be pretty happy! 
  • You can then go and make noise and offerings to the other trees in the orchard too, and then have a warm drink!   
  • In some places there is music, Morris dancing and bonfires too. 

Rowntree Park Wassail

Sunday 5th of February 2023

Sunday 5th of February is the new date we have for our Wassailing – we had to postpone from the 15th of January as the park flooded!

We have decided to ‘pick and choose’ from traditions to create our own.  This main Wassailing event is for all ages and free to attend (donations are always welcome to our charity who help maintain and improve the park).   Before the Wassail, we will have some activities for families that you can book into – there is a cost involved for these. 

The wassail itself will start at 3pm and will probably last 30 minutes to an hour and involves a procession through the park to the orchard. Please dress for the weather and make sure you are warm! You are welcome to wear costume if you so wish or touches of dress up (more below).

Pre Wassail children’s activities – 1.30-2.45 approx

This is aimed at children 2-12 approximately. In this event you will have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Create some ‘nature’ headwear 
  • Make some noise makers
  • Hear the tale of the ‘Apple Man’
  • Create some ‘blessings’, songs or poems for the apple trees. 

    Book your places here.
    £3 a child members/£4 Non members

Wassail procession 3pm – meet at the amphitheatre area

  • We will walk in procession, making a lot of noise, to the orchard (near the Millennium Bridge side of the park).
  • We will gather around a tree together and offer some blessings/poems – then beat the ground around it with our sticks. Then make an offering of soaked toast to the tree.  
  • People can then choose trees in the orchard to make offerings to, make lots of noise and say poems/blessings/thank the tree if they so wish! Hopefully there may be some Wassail drink left over from the children’s event to share with others – you are also welcome to bring your own in a flask as we cannot guarantee.
  • Don’t forget to visit the trees throughout the year to see how they are doing!


Wassailing can involve a variety of costume. However, what is most important is that you are dressed for the weather and are nice and warm!  No costume is expected,  but if people wish to dress up or add a ‘touch’ to their outfit, please do!  

A Twelfth night tradition is ‘mumming’ which usually means wearing outlandish costume made of rags or foliage usually. Mumming involved a group of friends or family who dress in disguise and visit homes within their community during the twelve days of Christmas. If welcomed into a house, they often did a variety of informal performances that may include dance, music, jokes, or recitations. The hosts had to guess who they were behind the costumes.

For  our Wassail, you are welcome to opt to ‘dress up’.  This could include a mediaeval look, elements of the green man, apple man, sun god or any other spirit  (use of nature in costumes).  Dress anything apple themed, or a robin, green face paint or even dress  in a superhero costume – anything works! 

Further information

This is a fun low key community event organised by volunteers. The focus is on bringing people together, the sharing of a tradition, and also highlighting the orchard in our wildlife area of the park that our volunteers care for. 

 You are responsible for yourself, and children, during this event. As sticks are involved – please be aware of other people when waving or bashing!  Our ‘Wassail drink’ will be non-alcoholic due to children being involved. You are welcome to bring your own flasks if you prefer to make your own Wassail drink! Please note that the park closes at 4pm in winter. 

Children’s event – bring sticks, pans, a plastic bottle- and if possible a torch!

Other types of Wassailing

Another form the wassailing tradition took involved groups of revellers going from house to house to drink toasts and wish good health for the year ahead on the dwellers within. Indeed, the word ‘wassail’ is believed to be derived from the Old English ‘was hál’, meaning ‘be hale’ or ‘good health’.

Book your places for the children’s event here.