Bubbles 

Dinks

Sat in the park 

Nature draws me as a magnet

Trees usually beckon but today it’s humans

Families together, connected in the allowed covid bubble 

Have no bubble family at the moment, feel insignificant

Watch the little girl by the pond, fascinated

She had a long tube of bubbles and a magic wand

Blew gently, carefully as a kiss

Then cheeks puff out like a hamster

Innocent fairy bubbles that hypnotised 

All sizes, shapes and rainbow colours

They danced, skipped and floated into the blue 

The bubbles were empty but felt full

They had given so much pleasure 

Especially to the little girl and me

She waved her wand at me as she left

I no longer felt alone, had been part of that bubble today

Rowntree Park 

John Ostyn

As I walk through the park,

Taking in the sights and colours,

Sounds and smells drift over,

To assault my waking senses. 

As I walk through the park, 

Noises from the nearby river mingle

With the young and their skatepark clatter

While older couples sit chatting on the benches. 

As I walk through the park,

People laugh and smile with each other,

relishing the freedom of the spaces

to rekindle fond childhood memories. 

Ain’t Nature Grand?

Joy Myerscough

None of us had been to the park before, on account of it being on the other side of the river. But Petey’s got one of his notions, which is to say he keeps on about it until we agree for the sake of peace and quiet. So now we’re standing on the bridge looking at the lake; Yobbers, me, Petey.  

Petey has a face like an amateur ferret. You can imagine him nibbling bran, or some such, without much of a stretch. He waves his arms about, nearly clobbering a woman passing by. “Breathe in the fresh air, lads,” he says.

Yobbers is wearing his usual: a leather jacket his mam got for him off the market, cargo pants, black combat boots. He pats his pockets, takes out his Pall Malls, shakes the packet. “Right,” he says, lighting a cig and inhaling deeply.

Petey leans on the bridge, sighs. “Ain’t nature grand?”

We don’t get Yobbers’ thoughts on this as there’s a godawful racket coming from the skate park across the way: screeching noises, followed by yelps, followed by more screeching, followed by thumps, followed by silence. 

Yobbers takes no notice. “Time for a swift one,” he says, waving his smoke in the direction of the stuccoed building on our left.

“That’s the reading café,” Petey says.

Yobbers says something under his breath. He’s never been one for reading, apart from the sports pages. Unless you count the football pools. And the only liquid I’ve ever seen him drink comes out of a tap at the Lowther. 

Petey pulls a pair of binoculars from his anorak pocket. He’s swiped them from his grandad, who used them for the horseracing until his gran threatened to leave and go live with her sister in Toronto, unless he stopped coming home soused and broke. Think it could have gone either way, but his grandad’s very fond of his wife’s cooking, her Sunday roast in particular. See him at BetFred once in a while, all the same. 

Petey clutches my arm. “Look! Ducks!” There’s a bunch of them belting up the pond towards us on the off chance one of us might have some Mother’s Pride to hand. We don’t, of course. 

Yobbers says, and I think he’s right— “Geese.”

Petey scratches his neck.  “One day I’m going to have a park.” This is one of his flights of fancy, given that he stacks shelves at the Londis near ours. Two days a week.  “Open to everyone. And it will have…”  He thinks hard, using his Petey thinks hard face. His last name is Scurry. I sometimes think he’d have a chance in life if he just used his full first name. Peter Scurry. Sounds like a best-selling author, or a mountain climber with motivational speaking skills, or a mid-ranking diplomat, at least.  But Petey Scurry? His career highlight will be operating a forklift at the builders’ merch. If he’s lucky. 

He puts the binoculars up to his honker. 

Yobbers says: “You’re looking through the wrong end.” 

Petey turns them about, finishes his earlier thought. “Trees and a lake. And grass.” 

“Why don’t you just stick with this one?” Yobbers asks, pointing at the park with his cig. 

 Petey presses on. “And a statue of Cupid, like the one along there.” We’d passed it on our way in. 

Yobbers snorts. “It’s not Cupid, dimwit. Cupid has a bow and arrow.”  

Petey scrunches up his nose. 

Yobbers fiddles in his pocket, finds his Swan Vestas and taps them on the top of the bridge.  “It’s Mercury. He has a staff. Known as a caduceus.”

Petey gives him another Petey look. Which is to say his eyes bulge a bit and his teeth stick out even more.  

Yobbers takes the binoculars from him. “It’s good to have dreams,” he says, in a voice that means whatever those are.  

An ambulance siren blares across the park, drowning out the ice cream van’s tinkle, which I haven’t had a chance to mention as yet. Come to whisk off the injured skateboarders, I reckon.

“Look at the lawn,” Petey says. “It looks like snow!” 

Yobbers allows that it does. “But it’s daisies,” he says. “On account of it being June.” 

Petey plunges on: “I bet there are dinosaur prints. You know… from the dinosaur age.” 

Neither Yobbers nor me have any thoughts on this. The ambulance siren goes quiet and we’re back to the ice cream van. This time it’s playing the Match of the Day theme tune.

The trees beside the lake blow about. Birds swoop around overhead. Might be gulls. Not pigeons, though. Those I’d know. Uncle Alf had pigeons. His best Racing Homer was called Petey, oddly enough. 

Petey says: “So much nature! There’s bound to be foxes…. and rabbits.”

 “So?” Yobbers says. “You can see a fox any day of the week. Just buy a packet of mints.” I think he might be wrong, but it don’t matter. 

Yobbers lifts the binoculars, peers in.

Petey’s now saying something about the park being a gift to the citizens of York from the Terry family.  I look at Yobbers, expecting him to point out the obvious. 

But Yobbers says nowt; elbows me, gives me the binoculars. I have a squint, see two girls walking alongside the lake in our direction. The taller one has long pale hair, a yellow dress and a denim jacket. The other is wearing a jumper with a short pink skirt and those ugly sandals that they’re all so fond of at the moment. Don’t look so bad on her, though. They’re both carrying books. Students, I reckon. They go up the steps to the reading café.

Yobbers straightens up. “Well now,” he says. “Ain’t nature grand?” 

He pulls a comb from his back pocket, runs it over his noggin. Sets off towards the caff, whistling.

Fox In a Park

Nate Reason, age 16

Unfortunately the fox in Rowntree Park can not write. You see, their paws are too big for a keyboard and too furry to hold a pencil. So when the fox met me I came up with the idea that I should write it all down for them. So we set a date for last week and I brought fish fingers and the fox brought me a slightly slobbery note pad and pen. So that’s enough from me, the human, I will let the fox introduce themself.

I was born in London. Where there was always enough food to go round, but small fights led to food shortages. Fortunately for me, my mother was always quick to smuggle food away under the noses of the other foxes. Tragically, when I was a young cub, she disappeared while hunting in Kensington Gardens. A young fox in this position would have no clue what to do and maybe wouldn’t survive even just a week. I remember those first five days when she didn’t come back. It rained every single one of them. On the sixth though I remember so clearly I was jumping over a wall when a human cub was pressed up against a window staring at me, drool all over the glass. She intrigued me greatly and almost looked the same age as me too. I cocked my head to the side and stared back at the delighted child. I think she started calling because soon two much bigger adults came in and started talking to the young human. Opening the door a crack, a hand reached out and placed a bowl on the ground and quickly withdrew. I waited for them to leave, of course my mum always said that humans were intensely frightened of even the smallest of foxes. I approached the bowl greedly, my stomach thinking instead of my head. I came back there every single day. Some nights I would even sleep in the garden. The small girl would always be there watching. One day though, the door was left open and the daughter was sat by the bowl, beckoning me. Not threatened, only slightly surprised, I trod over and started eating the scraps of meat. The girl looked at me wide eyed in wonder. A small pudgy hand outstretched and started stroking my fur. I hadn’t had another living thing touch me in so long. To my own surprise, I liked it.

I think the adults weren’t the best of parents. Letting a fox sleep in a human child’s room doesn’t seem  like a completely sane decision. The family was very energetic, especially for humans who I normally see driving around in cars and not using their two legs. The daughter I liked the most by far, she was like a fox herself in a human body. Three years later and I loved her, she cared for me every day but snuck away to movies and school all the time. I could tell the parents weren’t happy  together. The girl took me away to her room mostly so I couldn’t hear them. She would talk to me and stroke my head so I couldn’t hear it.

I went in a car with the daughter and one of the parents. No one talked the whole time. I curled up on the little girl’s lap and tried to fall asleep. We ended up at a different house. I think it was the parents’ mother who greeted us because like an old fox she was creaky and grey. I went out a lot more here. There were less tall buildings and more trees to run around in. I never saw the other parent, maybe they went off to have more cubs. Eventually I found a big open space with a pond and some small buildings, and when the daughter was out I went there and explored every part of it. Another year passed and I learned that this place was York,  and the open space with the pond was Rowntree Park. One day, neither the daughter or the parent came back to the house. One night I came back and the flap in the door was also gone. So I made my home in the park. Going back to the wild is such a change for a fox. Most foxes in the wild only live for 1 to 3 years. It was very hard at the start. Soon I managed to organise everything and my only real threat was dog walkers coming too close. I wish to see the girl again. I hope one day she will walk through the park too. I have decided that I will stay here until she does.

Weeds

Sally Mitchum

The merest chink 

Unseen between the bricks

Is all the first tendril needs

It pushes in

Tenacious.

Slowly, inexorably, grows stronger

Stealing nutrients from fertile soil

Fresh shoots loop

And spiral though older growth

Tangling and strangling

What should be treasured.

The experienced gardener

Would rip it out 

At first sight.

Slash and burn.

But I did not recognise the danger

And allowed the roots to grow strong.

I clip and trim, clip and trim

Paring back where I can.

Too hesitant to rip it out

For fear of what else I will destroy.

Or for fear that, Hydra-like, 

It will take greater hold. 

Sally Mitchum

And On That Day When

Katy Jenkins

And on that day when 

it felt that everything would fall apart,

when it felt that it was all dust and 

particles and 

emptiness and 

pointlessness. 

I came here.

And so softly the pieces of the world moved around me.

The breeze and the leaves and the trees and the sounds of the earth came into my breath and 

held my heart and 

whispered a reminder that

life goes on.

Anonymous

I can’t wait till it’s over

Angela Peacock

I can’t wait till it’s over

And all the world is free

To get out in the park and talk

To friends we couldn’t see 

I can’t wait till it’s over

Escape to near or far

The world it will our oyster be

By foot or plane or car

I can’t wait till it’s over 

The seaside’s calling me

The golden sand, the rock pools too

The waves upon the sea. 

I can’t wait till it’s over

It really has been hard

I’ll climb the hills and walk the glens

Escape from our back yard.  

I can’t wait till it’s over

To meet our family

A hug a kiss we don’t care which

Or both if they agree 

I can’t wait till it’s over

We’ll travel north and south

And east and west and up and down 

No masks on nose or mouth. 

I can’t wait till it’s over

The freedom and the choice

We’ll celebrate and laugh and sing

The whole world will rejoice 

I can’t wait till it’s over

Escape seems far away

A vaccine though is now being given

To thousands every day 

I can’t wait till it’s over

But please let’s not forget 

The thousands who can not escape 

Their lives cut short …… and yet

I can’t wait till it’s over 

The memories will last

For years and years and years until

They fade into the past

I can’t wait till it’s over

Covid’s not just a word

We’re lucky to have lived through it

Although it was absurd. 

And when at last it’s over

The world will change forever

The normal won’t be normal but…..

We can escape together! 

Angela Peacock

Birds in Rowntree Park

Guest blog by Vikki O’Brien

Eggs-tra, eggs-tra, read all about it! (Strap in, the egg puns are eggs-traordinary)  

As we eggs-it from what has been an egg-ceptionally challenging Winter, are you egg-cited to egg-splore the park now it’s reopened? We love that there are so many people using the park as part of their daily eggs-ercise, and as a way to eggs-perience nature.

Seriously though, although our lives have seen unprecedented change in recent times the natural world has continued on uninterrupted. Growing, blooming, retreating back, hibernating, and then getting ready to start the whole cycle again. With that in mind, it is an opportunity to remind ourselves to be aware and take care of our natural environment. 

So when you are in the park, don’t forget to take your litter home with you or put it in the bin, try not to disturb the animals or birds as they get on with their Spring jobs. There is activity returning to the wilder areas of the park as nesting and family life is beginning to emerge. Patches of colour are appearing with the bright daffodils and cheerful crocuses, and soon the insects will start to get busy pollinating. 

The busy-ness of nature truly is eggs-traordinary, just the thought is eggs-hausting. How fortunate we are to egg-sist in harmony with the natural world on our doorstep.

Extra info from Friend of Rowntree Park:

Some recent egg and nest discoveries have very interesting! Our volunteers spotted an intriguing nest in rotting tree hollow over the beck. At first we thought maybe a Tawny Owl nest. There was a sizeable egg inside and a lots of downy fluff clinging to outside of the old woodpecker hole. To make it more intriguing there were three blue eggs under this spot. But it turns out that Mallards apparently happily nest in tree cavities according and a mallard has been spotted nearby! Not sure if we;’ve solved the mystery but it’s fun trying to work it out!

A mood boost from bird song

A guest blog by Hannah Kenter

Rowntree Park was closed until recently due to flooding. Whilst the park was closed I started contemplating some of the ways nature on our doorstep can provide a wellbeing boost. I love hearing bird song at this time of year, more so due to the lockdown. The tree branches are somewhat bare and if I stay still I’ve a good chance of getting up close to a musical feathered friend. Urban nature can be surprising and beautiful. I don’t think I will ever tire of a long-tailed tit or a song thrush.

Researchers have recently found that birdsong can transform our mental health. It’s all about the type of song we listen to and partly to do with our associations with the sounds. It won’t surprise you that melodic and pleasant sounds scored highly in the study whilst squawks and rough sounds were less well received. Think blackbird vs magpie. The melodic sounds were found to be restorative and relaxing.

Now consider associations. A friend once told me off for saying that a robin’s song was melancholic. I realised that hearing a robin reminded me of a place that I was missing. Now I love to hear a robin and they are firmly back in my top five musical heroes. If you think of an owl or a crow what do you associate with them?

Not only can the sounds of bird song be restorative, bird biodiversity can also increase happiness levels. Researchers say that birds are one of the best indicators for biological diversity such as plants and other wildlife. Experiencing a variety of birds in daily life was found to bring greater joy. Birdlife; good indicator for planetary health and for human health!

So next time you hear bird song take a moment to notice how it makes you feel, notice which bird sounds bring you joy. During the tougher days of lock-down we can seek out the bird sounds that we love or go to places where we know we will be around several kinds of birds, this can give us a natural mood boost.

Now the park is back open, it’s great to go in and listen to some bird song. However, as some of you are shielding or isolation, listening to the recording might be a helpful way to connect with nature and with us from your home.

Do get in touch if you would like to share your musings about bird sounds.

Some extra info about Rowntree Park birds:

We are lucky tio get many birds in Rowntree park. Birds of every kind including long tailed tits, tawny, sparrow hawks, tree creepers, wood pigeons, crow family, finches and more.  It’s been noted that the long borders at gates to railed gardens -there are many sparrow and the odd trilling wren. The best time to listen is early or late in the day.

Listen to our Rowntree Park Starlings:

Have a listen to our Robins and friends:

Article links:
https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-listening-to-bird-song-can-transform-our-mental-health.html
https://www.ecowatch.com/birds-happiness-study-2649413979.html?rebelltitem=1

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch weekend

Bird blog, with contributions from lead Bird Volunteer Vikki.

I don’t think I’ve appreciated the park quite so much as I have done in recent months, as somewhere green and leafy to roam, but more importantly for me: somewhere to see the garden birds that are noticeably absent from our little yard. We have a bountiful display of delightful offerings for them; seeds, nuts, fruit and fresh water. However, I fear that the adjacent alley patrolled by Top Cat and his gang is a huge factor in their absence from our buffet. So I have grown to enjoy the quick flashes of colour in the hedges and loud trills or the sweet chirps, as I took a walk through the park as part of my daily exercise. 

The RSPB hold a Big Garden Birdwatch every year and this year is no exception. Inspired by this, we were hoping to encourage people to spot the birds that visit the park as part of this great event. However, a flooded frozen park means we can’t access it in time for the RSPB event, but this is something we can do at a later date – and we would love you to be involved.

We would like to collect a bit of information so we can begin to get to know who, among our feathered friends, regularly visit the park and where their favourite areas are. If you walk as part of your daily exercise, why not take a walk through the park when it reopens and note down what you see and where. 

The Friends of Rowntree Park volunteers have a range of bird feeders set up in Rowntree Park, mainly located in the Sensory Garden and Family garden (the two railed gardens in the centre of the park). These areas are great for seeing a range of birds. However, there are different birds in different areas. Many crows that walk the lawns, and owls in the woodland walk/Forest School area – if you are near the park late at night or around dawn you will hear them!

Send us your spots via email or social media, there isn’t a deadline so keep your binoculars handy! 

Image top: Joshbruceallen from Instagram – Robin in Rowntree Park
Image bottom: Timsbirding from Twitter – Gulls ion the ice in Rowntree Park