ONE of York’s best-loved parks is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

Rowntree Park, on the banks of the River Ouse, will be running a range of community projects and, hopefully, events throughout its centenary year.

The first project being launched by the Friends of Rowntree Park is called Words from a Bench and people are invited to submit short stories or poems themed around nature and the outdoors, the park or escape. They have to be no more than 1,000 words long and they will be displayed around the park.

Abigail Gaines of the Friends of Rowntree Park said: “It’s another way of celebrating the park and seeing the world through different park users’ eyes. The park is a palace to everyone and means so much to the local community and York in general. We call the park ‘our backyard;’ as many in the area don’t have their own gardens, so a walk in the park is such a beautiful escape’. Through 2021 we have a range of projects running and welcome help and support from the local community in helping mark the park’s 100th birthday.”

York Press: Rowntree Park, York which has achieved a Green Flag Award. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe (33840893)

Entries are welcome from all ages, including children.

The editors of the project include one of the founders, Karen Hill Green, along with Gayle Johnson and Nicky Kippax. Between them they have are published poets/writers, writing group leads and educators. Submissions are asked by by February 15 to

QR codes will be displayed on benches around the park and people can access via their phones. The pieces will also be available to read online.

The Friends of Rowntree Park are volunteers who help maintain and improve Rowntree Park. Throughout 2020 they vastly expanded their volunteer programme as they saw a demand for outdoor activities that people could engage with safely during covid restrictions. A big focus for 2021 is expanding volunteer opportunities and provision to help support mental health and wellbeing and tackle social isolation.

The Words from a Bench project is just one of the many ideas lined up for the year ahead.

The park was born out of the carnage of the First World War, and Joseph Rowntree’s desire to create something that would both serve as a memorial to those who lost their lives – 200 men from the Rowntree Cocoa Works alone died in the war – and as a public park that would benefit generations of ordinary York people.

The park is currently closed due to the recent floods, but hopes to reopen in the next couple of weeks.