Home Third Sector, Health & Education Charity prepares to transform York’s wetlands and riverbanks

Charity prepares to transform York’s wetlands and riverbanks

Volunteers from Aviva, Benenden Health, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Housing Trust, boxxe and Portakabin taking part in the York Cares Big Community Challenge 2022 at Westfield Marsh

A York charity is aiming to restore and improve several wetland areas across the city, and is urging a record number of volunteers to take part in the month-long environmental project, making it its biggest challenge ever.

The annual Big Community Challenge will take place in June and is being organised by employee-volunteering charity York Cares, with support from City of York Council ECO Team, St Nicks, and the University of York, which is also celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Holly Hennell, Manager at York Cares said: “We want to make this our biggest ever community challenge.

“The Big Community Challenge is well supported by many of the city’s organisations who all encourage their staff to volunteer, but this year’s project is particularly ambitious. This is why we are also co-ordinating extra dedicated days each week for the local community to lend a hand so that even more people can get involved.


“We have identified wetland areas in the North, East, South and West of the city, linking to the city’s river heritage. The volunteering activities organised in these areas aim to preserve and improve biodiversity in the city. They include creating bog gardens, ponds and wildflower areas, planting reeds and improving riverbanks.  All areas selected for this year’s Big Community Challenge are in close proximity to freshwater habitats and tasks will focus on preserving and improving these vital habitats for conservation.”

Companies who allow their staff time during the working day to regularly take part in the annual Big Community Challenge include Aviva, BAM Nuttall, Benenden Health, boxxe, Johnson’s of Whixley, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nestle, Portakabin, Torsion Construction, and The Partners Group, some of whom also provide materials, equipment, advice and skilled labour.

Ellie Stead, CEO at St Nicks said: “These volunteering activities provide a variety of opportunities for people to truly get engaged in making a difference to their local area and natural habitats. The restoration and management of the river and wetland areas in York is vital to ensure the ongoing enhancement and connectivity of these habitats and to increase biodiversity within our city. For anyone who volunteers and enjoys the experience, there are plenty of ongoing volunteering programmes we can provide to allow them to continue to learn and enjoy giving something back to nature and the city of York!”

The areas of the city that will be transformed include:

  • Hull Road Park – creating a bog garden; building up the banks along the beck as part of a restoration project and efforts to repopulate the water voles
  • University of York Campus East – planting around the lake shore including tansy planting, retrieving plastic tree shelters from trees on Kimberlow Hill
  • New Walk – creating wildflower areas; riverside planting and tansy planting to improve habitats of endangered Tansy Beetles.
  • Rowntree Park – developing a wetland area to create a network of ponds and scrapes
  • Chapman’s Pond – transplanting reeds; developing the frog pond and bog garden
  • Westfield Marsh – maintaining the marshland
  • Rawcliffe Lake and Meadows – improving biodiversity with wildflower planting schemes around the lake foreshore
  • River Foss – riverbank improvements
  • Foss Walk – improving the riverside path by adding pollinators and benches.

The project supports York’s local biodiversity action plan and is a natural progression to last year’s Big Community Challenge which created several green corridors to enable nature to thrive in the city.

Councillor Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, said: “The city’s thanks go to York Cares and everyone involved in the Big Community Challenge! The challenge will support York’s ecological network by allowing nature to thrive in our open spaces, wetlands, riverbanks and ponds. I’m grateful to the many volunteers, council staff and city partners who are working together on this inspired project.”

Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, added: “We’re really looking forward to getting as many staff and students involved in this fantastic project, as well as bringing in our own expertise on how we preserve and improve biodiversity. We hope this challenge will help motivate everyone in our community to drive greater change towards sustainability, and make a difference, right on our doorstep.”