Gathering Green: Look at Your City walk

13th July 2019

As part of the summer Gathering Place discussions, we’ve planned five Look at Your City walks. The walks use what we can see already in York as a resource for thinking creatively about the new public spaces in the Castle and Eye of York. Ten of use explore Parliament Stree, St Helen’s Square, Museum Gardens and Duncombe Place.

The big ideas:

  • The trees are not in the way of the views they are the views
  • The seasons give special views to local people, it’s the trees and their changes through the year which gives us, local people, so much richness, we see it in so many different ways
  • Trees help us navigate and focus our attention
  • The prison and courts make Eye of York feel odd – we need to hold on the why that is (their original purpose) and soften it. Planting can help with that.
  • Different spaces (like Museum Gardens) but unified by planting
  • Children like playing on real stuff more than playing equipment
  • Succession planting on Clifford’s Tower, respect the daffodils but then wild flowers?
  • We need to think in ecosystems not about individual plants/trees.
  • We need to talk about the future and climate crisis not just the past


Parliament Street

‘It is now a social space with cafes and no traffic. The trees make it feel almost like an avenue but people almost don’t use it like that’.

‘Trees give a structure to spaces that are open and a focus’

‘Shade is also very useful as summers get hotter’.

‘You always need to think about accessibility and there are issues with roots pushing up pavements and people tripping’.

‘Pollarding the trees was a bit disturbing. It made them ugly and stark’

‘Good the leaves are out now’

‘But it is good to see that the trees are being looked after’

‘you can hear bird song in the evenings’

‘the trees give parliament street its identity’

‘All the trees are the same species – not sure if I like that or not’

‘Why not have circular benches around the trees’ ‘probably not possible because its used for the Christmas market’

‘Why is it people flow down the sides but not down the middle’

‘Need to think about what its like in the ice and snow’

‘be good to talk to event organizers too abut what they need’

‘trees also good to block noise pollution’

‘There isn’t much other planting here’.

‘Castle area and Eye of York are a different shape, not as linear and not like a canyon. There is also the natural element of the Foss’.

‘Not having grass might help in not attracting the geese’.

How do we look at the values of trees both ecologically and in ways beyond the economic?

i-Tree – have a look at that, referenced by Barry Otley from Treemendous York.

The ecology is more important that specific trees.

‘There needs to be succession planting if the trees are all planted at the same time’.

‘There is an English Heritage photograph of Clifford’s Tower and there is a dear in it’.

‘You can see the history of the green through the photograph of the are’a.

‘The Castle Gateway are is also an industrial space from 20th century, linked to one of city centre York’s only 20th century streets’.

‘Clifford’s Tower is mowed to within an inch of its live, but in the past it was quite wild. After the daffodils can we have wild flowers?’

‘The possibilities of succession of different plants throughout the year’.

‘How can trees help with creating desire lines for routes?’


Museum Gardens

‘The planting means it is broken up into different places. There is also a sense of privacy, even when it’s busy. There can be a reflective space and a space for children’.

‘Edible York might want to get involved in the planting?’

‘Climbing is just so important for children (the remains in Museum Gardens were full of children) like a mini Brigham Rocks’

‘More interesting than a climbing frame’.

‘Children see history and texture. And they are being watched over but at a distance, they feel protected. Young children always want to climb on walls’.

‘I was in Valley Garden in Harrogate – all about imagination and playing Hide and Seek.

Can you created that protected feel? These trees shield us from traffic as well’.

‘The different between Museum Gardens and the Castle and Eye of York areas are they won’t be locked at night’.

‘Could we see the new area as a natural amphitheatre?’

‘Varied vegetation, different scales needs to work for tourists and local people’.

‘Everything should have different uses and activities everyone should be able to be there without impinging’.

‘Planting could also both separate and unify. Drawing it together event through they might be different spaces they are also connected’.

‘Feels organic in Museum Gardens and not the product of one mind’.

‘If the Georgians developed Museum Gardens for learning and health, they developed the Eye of York for civil authority and poplar space. Can we build on that for today?’

‘We need to use our civic publc space not just for tourists’.

‘Is there scope for a green artwork for the Eye of York?’

‘At the moment the buildings make it feel odd, it feels like you are being watched. It is a place people do not want to be.’

‘So the challenge is to soften that authority for today while still communicating it’s historic significance.  We need to look to develop a varied space’.


Duncombe Place

‘The trees are not in the way of the views – they are the views. It is the glimpses that make you walk that way. The views then unfold and change as you move.’

‘It’s the trees that make every season different. York without leaves on the trees is also the local views, we get to see that. We get all seasons’.

‘The trees are beautiful. They also have rights. They are provide us with so much.’


1 thought on “Gathering Green: Look at Your City walk”

  1. I have come to York from the south of England to explore its relationship with water, and in 2018 our Gatekeeper Trust group of 4 parked at the park on St George’s Field, to walk with peace lanterns to the river joining. We then walked as a pilgrimage to the Minster and felt trees and rivers had so beautifully held us in their design, weaving water and Nature together in a city makes it even more magical.
    We left a message at St Mary’s and felt the project an excellent idea to capture public wishes for their city environment.
    In other cities, friends run circle dancing for peace. The arts are very much in evidence through your project, so good luck! We will come again as we have friends living locally.


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