Tower Gardens, a look from all angles with Dave Meigh

A view from the river walk way alongside Tower Gardens

We started with a new view of Tower Gardens, for me at least, from the river itself (from one of the walk ways linked to the cruises). Dave Meigh, Operations Manager – Public Realm (Strategy and Contracts) for the City of York Council, took us down there to show us the silting that had accumulated close to the river bank over time contributing to the difficulty of water running off Tower Gardens after flooding. From there we went on a tour seeing the garden from many different perspectives.

For a rich history of Tower Gardens see this York Stories piece.

Flooding and Flood Recovery

One obvious issue facing Tower Gardens is that it regularly floods and the area is featured in the Environment Agency wider York plans. As a result, a crucial issue is how Tower Gardens can recover better from flooding. Grass currently takes a long time to recover leaving very extensive muddy areas.

As we walked around, Dave suggests a few measures to make a difference:
• The silt (that we started with) to be shaved off.
• Lift the cycle path so it’s not in a hollow and doesn’t collect water
• Remove the grass between the path and the river, to create a paved area which slopes gently towardsto the river

Tower Gardens trees: Lime, Plane and Japanese Elm being most numerous.

There are a number of different types of trees in Tower Gardens but most numerous are:
• Lime
• Plane (it is the lime trees which are connected to the 18th century new walk).
• Japanese Elm (these are relatively new, only 30-35 years old)
There is also a recently-replaced Copper Beech and a silver birch. There are a couple of Anne Frank memorial in Tower Gardens, one noted by Lisa from York Stories in terms of a bush. But there is also a memorial tree, Dave said:

‘apparently when Anne was in hiding she could see a Horse Chestnut from the window. My colleagues Brian arranged the planting and CYC education services paid for it. The Rose was a separate project’

The issues of trees has some relevance to flood recovery, some arguing through the My Castle Gateway process that if there were fewer trees the grass would get more light and recover from flooding sooner. Dave tends to agree and argues for a planting plan which would both reflect the history of the Gardens and future uses of the space. In the short term this may mean selected removal and repainting to meet these aims. It should be noted there are lots of voices in favour of trees – an issue for our walk around on Saturday.

There was a lot of interest through the My Castle Gateway conversation for more benches, with view to the river and to Clifford’s Tower. One thing Dave emphasised was the need for hard surfaces under them to avoid muddy puddles developing.

Dave noted a lot of street signage-type clutter… do we need all of these?

Are all the signs in Tower Gardens necessary?

New activities
In general we spoke a lot about new activities for the area, things that could happen that would make the gardens more used and more loved. Ideas ranged from the kind of activities the Arts Barge plan to bring (and have run through their Festival) to a possible café spill out near the entrance of the park, certainly something mentioned through the My Castle Gateway conversations [link].

We also discussed the keen swimmers who, as part of the My Castle Gateway Living Well With Water network want to explore Ouse and Foss swimming. The sign bans them but Dave provided the Bylaws which clearly state that swimming is only banned under these conditions:

From the Ouse Bylaws

We also inspected the park from above and explored the view from the bridge… which is perhaps not ideal. Views towards Clifford’s Tower are expressly explored in the York Central Historic Core Conservation Area Appraisal but there might be others we need to consider too in terms of future landscaping, not least to the river.

Want to explore the views and get involved in the conversation, come along on Saturday.

What would make you come and spend time in Tower Gardens? Landscaping ideas
3rd February 2018, 2-4pm
Meet in Tower Gardens

In the Castle Gateway Masterplan Ideas shared for discussion in November and December, one idea for Tower Gardens was to explore different landscaping options. People who responded drew attention to the need for Tower Gardens to recover more quickly from flooding, to shelter park users from traffic noise and for there to be more places to sit down and spend time. Join us to deepen this conversation. We will walk around Tower Gardens to explore further the issues and identify both more immediate and longer term ways forward.

If you would like to come, or can’t come but want to stay in touch with this discussion, let us know at

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