A 'rewilded' beck in a York park is now 'miserable' and should be returned 'to its former glory', according to campaigners. 

However, agencies behind moves to improve the biodiversity of Osbaldwick Beck, in Hull Road Park in Tang Hall, say the site has been cleaned up and now boasts nearly 300 wildlife species.

In July 2017, City of York Council approved the re-naturalisation of Osbaldwick Beck with £60,000 of funding, saying the work would "introduce a variety of flora and fauna into the park and provide a new attraction".

But some park users claim that Osbaldwick Beck has ‘lost all of its charm’ through poor maintenance and mismanagement, and their children and grandchildren don’t want to visit the area.


One campaigner provided images of swans in one of the two ponds from 2021 which he claimed used to be seen regularly, along with kingfishers, but he now says that bulrushes have taken over.

Resident Gill Newton said: “People don’t come to Hull Road park with the kids anymore.

“We have been told that there are animals and other things but there’s nothing for the kids to see.”

Other residents said the area is miserable, with one saying that the beck had been destroyed, that sections of the railings are bowing or missing and the concrete at the edges has moved and cracked with subsidence, pointing out the foliage growing from them.

Tang Hall resident Barry Able said: “There’s a feeling of misery now, which is depressing.

“There’s an unbelievable stench.”

Different birds were in Osbaldwick Beck last week (June 6)Different birds were in Osbaldwick Beck last week (June 6) (Image: Kevin Glenton)

Petition organiser David Alexander, of Alcuin Avenue, has lived opposite the park for 45 years and said that he used to bring his children to the ponds to feed ducks but trying to do so now with his grandchildren has proved fruitless.

The petition he started to ‘restore the beck’ has had more than 600 signatures, online and in person.

'They have cleaned up and rewilded the beck and it is now teeming with life'

An Environment Agency spokesperson said that along with nature and green living charity St Nicks and City of York Council, it had successfully improved the biodiversity of Hull Road Park.

They added: “This included cleaning up Osbaldwick Beck, where rubbish had accumulated affecting the natural habitats of wildlife.

“As a result of tireless local volunteers, the beck has now become home to over 279 different species of plants and animals, including otters, herons and little egrets.”

In a joint statement, Hull Road ward councillors Michael Pavlovic and Anna Baxter said: “It was recognised by the council and the Environment Agency at the time of the 2017 decision that long-standing problems, including human waste being directed from nearby homes, straight into the beck, meant it was dying.

“Residents regularly complained about the smell and rubbish dumped in it.

“The Environment Agency and St Nicks consulted the public on their proposals in 2021.

“This included leafletting the whole surrounding area and speaking to over 100 people at information sessions.

“They have cleaned up and rewilded the beck and it is now teeming with life.

“We see ducks and moorhens, all manner of insects and invertebrates, endangered water voles and even otters have been spotted.

“This is a huge achievement for an inner-city park and Labour's Hull Road ward councillors will continue to work with partners to continue this successful project.

“Biodiversity has improved hugely as a result of these changes."

A spokesperson for St Nicks said: “Since 2018, St Nicks has been working to improve the beck habitats in Hull Road Park.

“Our work is part of an Environment Agency and City of York Council funded programme to restore this heavily modified section of beck to a more natural state.

“During a mini-bioblitz in 2022, a six-hour survey session with professional naturalist Steven Falk and local volunteers, an amazing 279 species were recorded along the beck, including 137 flowering plants and 86 insect species including 32 key pollinating species.

“We conduct regular ecological surveys to monitor the effects of the restoration work.

“River health readings have improved significantly from 2019 to 2024.

“We are also due to conduct a river habitat survey in the coming weeks to compare to previous data originally captured in 2018.

“Our work on the beck also includes ensuring it is no longer treated as a dumping ground.

“Since 2020, we have worked with local volunteers to remove approximately 16 tonnes of rubbish and large items of fly-tipping from the beck, recycling much of what we clear out.

“Community engagement is important to us."

The spokesperson added: “This project is not just for the benefit of wildlife, but also for local people who now have an important site for nature which they can enjoy on their doorstep.”