Rowntree Park York – Forest School for Big Kids!

Saturday 12th of September 2020 10am-11.30am

Saturday 17th of October 2020 10am-11.30am

Our popular York Forest School for ‘Big Kids’ offer a range of bush crafts and outdoor learning suitable for 6-12 year olds. Sessions can include nature based arts and crafts, use of tools such as knives, drills and saws, fire skills and campfire cooking and much more. This events runs monthly and places must be booked in advance.

We are hoping to make use of the apples that grow in the park as part of the session and pressing them to make juice, amongst other things. There are two sessions currently with tickets available – welcome to attend one or both!

Forest School Rowntree Park York – Tickets

We started running these sessions in September 2019 and they have proved very popular.  The sessions have continued to run each month and tend to sell out.  However, do to COVID we are making the sessions smaller and taking a number of precautions to make them ‘COVID safe’.

Tickets are £7. Each ticket includes one child and one adult.

Sat 10th September Ticket – SOLD OUT

Sat 17th October Ticket – SOLD OUT

Tickets for members are usually just £6. You will be refunded the extra £1 on the day.

It’s important that numbers are controlled, therefore additional tickets must be purchased for each additional adult and child. No ticket needed for babies in arms if they stay with the parent.

Any questions regarding this contact Christine at

In addition to your Paypal receipt, Christine will aim to send you a confirmation email and details about the event before the date. Please do check your junk box as we have had some emails go astray!

About Rowntree Park York Forest School

The sessions will take a Forest School approach – Forest school is more than just sessions outdoors. It is a specialised approach that is learner-centred and aims to promote the holistic development of the child. Through hands-on practical learning, Forest school fosters resilience, confidence, self-esteem, independence and creativity and encourages- children to take risks within a supportive learning environment set within nature.

The sessions are run by our forest school trained volunteer Christine. All very reasonably priced for experiences that are utterly priceless! All profit goes back into our volunteer work in maintaining and improving the park too! Rowntree Park Forest School is not far from the centre of York.

More on our Forest School here

The Very Young Friends of Rowntree Park return!

The Very Young Friends of Rowntree Park is our monthly meet up aimed at children aged 1-5 years old. The group is an outdoor group with a focus on nature-based exploration and arts and crafts.

The next meet up is Thursday 5th of November 1.30-2.30pm and lasts around an hour.

The focus of the session will be ‘Awesome Autumn’. There will be stories, crafts and games.

These sessions are popular and well loved.

The session time is changing from mornings to 1.30-2.30pm (From Nov 2020) with some new leaders who are excited to meet you! The group meet at the story circle in the woods, this is located near to the Cameron Grove/Millennium Bridge entrance to the park. It is a very relaxed and friendly group.

Tickets for the Very Young Friends of Rowntree Park

We are asking that places are booked in advance due to the fact we have to strictly restrict numbers and put measures in place to be as ‘COVID safe’ as possible.

1 Ticket for every child and 1 ticket for each parent/carer – we have to control numbers for COVID safety. Tickets are just £1 a person. Babies in arms do not need a ticket.

Book tickets for Nov 5th 1.30-2.30pm – SOLD OUT

You will get a Paypal receipt, and then check you inbox/junk mail as you will receive an email from confirming your place. Please give us a few days to get back to you as we are all volunteers.

If you’d like more information on the sessions, have any questions or want to know how we are implementing ‘COVID safety’ measures, get in touch with us at

Please do not use this email address for COVID contact ‘Track and Trace’ as this is an organisational email and not linked to a person.

The sessions take place whatever the weather, so please dress appropriately. If for any reason we cancel the session, you will be offered a refund. If you cannot attend, please let us know in advance. If we can re sell your place we will refund your money.

We look forward to seeing you all!

Rowntree Park Tree Trail

The Friends of Rowntree Park have two new tree trails released in Summer 2020.

An adults 20 tree trail (1.5 km) walk around the park -suitable from prams and come wheel chair accessible too. We also have a children’s ‘little legs’ trail that takes 20-30 minutes.

The trails were planned by some of our Young Friends of Rowntree Park during Covid ‘lockdown’ and drawn by locals artists.  

Rowntree Park has a wide variety of trees

Sadly the old council tree trail had been out of date for many years, with trees no longer there. We had wanted to design new trails for a couple of years. However, during lockdown when a Year 5 school task happened to be tree and leaf identification, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get some of our Young Friends of Rowntree Park involved. Matthew Banham and Ida Gaines, with help from Ted Gaines and Noah Banham, spent time identifying the many trees in the park. To our surprise we found over 40 varieties of trees! The children help plan a route than also created a pleasant walk around the park, taking people to areas they may not always explore.

Artists – Rowntree Park Tree Trails

Local artists volunteered to draw up the maps and leaflets. The illustrations are really lovely, and helpful! The adult trail was designed by Sarah Cooper at StudioThirtyTwo and the children’s trail by Ellie Lewis at Nutkin Avenue. Both artists also have their own online shops for cards and other art, do check them out!

Where to get the Rowntree Park Tree Trails

The tree trails are both available from Rowntree Park Reading Cafe (open 10-4pm) and are just £1 each.  All profit goes back into our volunteer work in maintaining and improving the park for the community.

Once you have your leaflet, the trail starts near the cafe and you look for wooden numbered discs high up on the tree trunks.

We hope you enjoy the tree trail, we really enjoyed making it!

Open Air Theatre comes to Rowntree Park this summer!

We are pleased to announce that ‘Park Bench Theatre’ will run in Rowntree Park from the 12th of August to the 5th of September. There are three shows by Engine House Theatre and tickets are available through the Theatre Royal Box office (links below).

A rarely-performed Samuel Beckett monologue, a brand new play and
a family performance – all performed on and around a park bench in the Friends railed garden in the park. The Friends of Rowntree Park are happy to support this event and some of our volunteers will be helping at the shows.

The performances

First Love by Samuel Beckett

Wed 12 – Sat 22 August at 7pm.
8 and 15 August, 2pm matinee.

A man, a woman, a recollection. One of Samuel Beckett’s most masterful stories, First Love is awash with Beckett’s signature balancing of comedy and tragedy. Performed by Chris Hannon, directed by Matt Aston. 
Running time 45 minutes approx. Contains very strong language.

Every Time a Bell Rings (premiere) by Matt Aston

Wed 19 – Sat 29 August at 7pm.
22 & 29 August, 2pm matinee

Lockdown. Easter Sunday 2020. Cathy emerges from her own isolation and
searches for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park. A
touching, funny and poignant look at how the world is changing through these
extraordinary times. Performed by Lisa Howard, directed by Tom Bellerby.
Contains very strong language. Running time 45 minutes approx.

Teddy Bears’ Picnic (premiere) co-created by Cassie Vallance and Matt Aston 

11:30am and 1:30pm
Wednesday 19 Saturday – Saturday 22 August
Thursday 27 – Saturday 29 August
Monday 31 August – Saturday 5 September

Teddy Bears’ Picnic, premiere inspired by the song and based on an original
idea by Julian Butler.
Every year Jo’s family used to have a big family gathering – a teddy bears’
picnic. It was brilliant. Then she got too old and too cool for that sort of thing.
So she stopped going. But now she’s grown up … she wishes she could have
them all over again. Audiences are invited to bring along their favourite teddy and a picnic.

Matt Aston, artistic director of engine house theatre, says: “I used to do my
daily lockdown exercise in Rowntree Park where I had the idea of someone
sitting on a park bench and thinking about what they are going through. The
isolation and the fact that she might actually have been isolated for many
years. I then remembered First Love was also set on a park bench and the
idea rolled on from that

Matt’s adaptations of the Benji Davies children’s books Grandad’s Island and The Storm Whale both proved big hits in the Studio at York Theatre Royal.

COVID measures
The Park Bench Theatre season follows the government go-ahead for open
air live performances to take place. The monologues will be presented in a
safe and controlled way ensuring all audience members are socially
distanced. In conversation with York City Council, and in line with current government
guidance, Park Bench Theatre has implemented a range of measures
ensure the health and safety of audiences and staff. The measures are under constant review, and apply across all performances throughout the Park
Bench Theatre season. 

Useful information
More information available from includes details on use of headphones for the performances – bring your own or hire them. People are encouraged to bring blankets in the first few rows and chairs in the
back few rows.
Tickets are £10 for First Time and Every Time a Bell Rings, and £5 for Teddy Bears Picnic. Maximum of 70 tickets for each
Food and refreshments. Bring your own food and drink to all performances
but note that no alcohol is allowed to be consumed in Rowntree Park. 

Tickets available from:

Please note – all ticket sales and questions to Park Bench Theatre please. We are supporting the event but not running this.

Forest school is back!

We are delighted to be able to start running some of our events again and even more excited that we’re starting with Forest School! We’ve made some changes to help our volunteers and participants prevent the spread of Covid-19 like limiting numbers, increasing hand washing and designing activities to allow for social distancing whilst still maintaining our Forest school ethos of play and discovery.

Forest school offers a range of activities including: tool use, art and crafts, nature exploration, map reading and creative play. Each session focuses on a specific activity with plenty of time for free play and exploration. Over the summer we won’t be doing our usual campfire and hot chocolate but we will be learning new skills and games.

We have some availability at our sessions on the 1st August at 10am and 1pm. If you’d like to book, click below. Contact Christine at for more details.

(Note that all places are priced at £7, members can get a £1 reduction on the day. Tickets are non-refundable)

Rowntree Rainbows

From the July 16th 2020 Rowntree Park became full of colour. Not just plants and flowers, but also rainbows!

Rainbows for Rowntree Park – a big colourful thank you!

Through ‘lockdown’ from March-June 2020, our Friends of Rowntree Park craft group were colourfully crafting in their own homes. Other groups and individuals from across York have also joined the project ‘Rowntree Park Rainbows’.

This yarn bombing display is a big visual ‘thankyou’ to all NHS staff, key workers and all those who have supported others through the months of lockdown due to COVID. The rainbows are also a symbol of positivity and hope – a great welcome to visitors to the park.

A large rainbow made up of individual coloured pieces of 6″ has been sewn together across the outside of tennis court near the cafe. The pieces have been knitted, crocheted or felted. Individual rainbows hang from the pergola, a wonder to walk under. Look closely and you can see the amazing detail and craft work.

Yarnbombing display in Rowntree Park July-August 2020

The display was up in time for Rowntree Park’s 99th birthday on July 16th. Although we cannot run large events in the park at the moment, we hope this display will bring joy to many.

Many thanks for all involved, and also to fellow crafters Hippystitch for all their involvement and support.

Our craft group tends to meet on Monday afternoons from 1-3pm at the cafe (when life is normal). They welcome new people and also welcome people to contribute to their projects from their own homes.

You can share your creations or your snaps of the display using the hashtag #rowntreeparkrainbows

Thank you to Visit York who have included our display in their guide to ‘keyworker thank you’s’ in York. Huge thanks to Sara and Rosemary who led in the project.

Cascade Rowntree Park

The cascade area is just below the Richardson Street entrance at the side of the cafe. This was to be a rock garden with water cascading into a pool. Joseph Rowntree said it “Symbolised Life’.

Betty Metcalfe recalls that originally it was a grass slope. There was a horse show shaped bed filled with red geraniums. It the centre there was a tree of some sort. The stone that is currently there is said to have come from the old York prison wall around 1934. There was originally a small amphitheatre in front of the cascade. The aviaries and sun shelter were added in 1930 and located where the tennis court is now at the side of the cascade.

The cascade area was repaired as part of the restoration of the Rowntree Park in the early 2000s, funding by a Heritage Lottery Grant. The cascade area is current CYC area of responsibility and is a little overgrown at the moment. The water hasn’t been running for the last two years as repairs are needed. The Friends have planted the ‘fairy circle’ of Spring flowers in the patch of grass at the bottom and usually have pots of wildflowers out to encourage bees and butterflies. It is a lovely area!

History of play areas at Rowntree Park

The original play park in Rowntree Park was not where it is located now. Looking from the cafe, it was far back toward Terry Avenue gates and on the left – nearer the location of the table tennis tables. There were play park attendants to promote ‘proper play’!

The original park had a very large sandpit. It had a couple of see-saws and about three or four swings. The playground also had ‘Giant Strides’ – like a maypole with revolving cups where chains dangle (6-8) and wooden handgrips. You ran around fast and your feet lifted up.

“What fascinated me most, although I have never heard anyone mention it since, was something called the Giant Strides. It would be something considered potentially lethal nowadays. I was so small I wasn’t allowed to go near it. Its name came from the larger and larger strides you would make before taking off’”.
Betty Metcalfe

The current playpark was originally added in 2000 following a lottery grant that helped improve the park, and updated in 2019 with a few new pieces of equipment. The wading pool never returned!