Look at Your City: Gathering Playfully

The story circle in Rowntree Park

On 25th August a group of us spent a very warm Sunday morning exploring play in Castle Gateway through the lens of Rowntree Park. We were very lucky to also be joined by Cath Mortimer, a member of the Friends of Rowntree Park and our conversation was greatly aided by a prior conversation with those involved in the Very Young Friends of Rowntree Park.

A quote from one of the participants on the Look At Your City: Gathering Playfully walk

What makes for imaginative play?

‘Play should not always be manufactured for you’

‘Need focal points for play, rather than lots of rushing about. There could be little alcoves that also work as seating. Little starting points for adventures’.

‘The Roman Helmet [in Rowntree Park] you can only go in it, you can’t climb on it. It only has one use’.

‘Could something like the labyrinth (currently in Rowntree Park) be used as part of commemorating the histories of the site?’

‘What about a sandpit?’

Wilder areas for imaginative play

Slopes, wilder areas and water?

‘They’ve tidied up the hedge bit, which is a shame, as it’s a good place for children to go behind and poke things with sticks’

‘There should be more wild bits, with wonderful gnarled pieces of wood’

‘There are beautiful wild meadows in Harlow Carr but they say ‘don’t climb on it’. This wilder type of planting might not survive a public park’

‘Slopes are great for imaginative play. Top and a bottom. Rolling. Simple’

‘Fallen logs are great. For balancing and building dens’.

‘Having water to paddle in would be good. In Cologne there is a paddling pool near to the Cathedral. There were so many families paddling’

Seating and lots of it – and that enable play?

‘Seating is crucial. But can the seating also be to encourage play’?

‘There needs to be a lot of seating facing the Foss’

Young people

‘The Skate Park is one node of activity for young people, there are others as well. It is important young people have spaces that work for them’

Yarn bombing in Rowntree Park – the Cafe gives a space for activity like this to happen

Loos, food and drink

‘Public loos are essential’.

‘Plan in picnic spots. Cafes are important too’

‘If cafes do take away, they need to be compatible with Carbon Neutral plan’

‘Not just water fountains but places where you can refill water bottles’



‘Places for shelter from the wind and shade’


Views and glimpses

‘Romantic glimpses of the Foss through trees could be just as good – or better, more romantic – that a full view’


Type of space: Connecting histories and the ethos today

‘I miss the ice skating in the Eye of York’

‘We need to be able to have big public events there but it would be a shame if it was designed primarily for that purpose. We need a space that is flexible’

‘Spaces that are tranquil in the city are very important for York’

‘Imagine something like this story circle [in Rowntree Park’ in the Eye of York. So simple. It just encourages a different way of being together. Relaxed and friendly. A soapbox maybe that would work for 5 people or 100’

‘People should be excited about coming to York. A 21st century city made for people. Experience a city made on a human scale, sociable and interesting. We need a vision for this part of York, this is a rare opportunity. A place you keep coming back to’

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