The Homestead Park, York, is a 14 acre park belonging to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in the grounds of what was the home of Joseph’s son Seebohm, which is now the headquarters of the JRF.
You can enter on foot from Waterend or from Shipton Road, where the carpark is, which includes several Blue Badge spaces. It’s gravelled, so my powerchair would not have coped with it, but we had taken my scooter, so, having parked in the bay nearest the gate, it was just a case of bumping over some concrete before the tarmac began. The paths in the park are largely tarmac with some crazy paving and flat except for a few sloping bits near the pond – easily avoidable if needed and there are a number of benches as you go round.
The whole place is beautifully kept – I expect it’s lovely all year round but this was certainly a good time to visit as there is lots of blossom as well as spring flowers, some in immaculate formal beds with wonderful colour combinations, others in less formal herbaceous beds and perhaps because of the previous day’s rain, there was a lovely woodsy smell.
There is also a medieval garden, constructed in honour of the 800th anniversary of York being granted a royal charter.
The pond, surrounded by acers and rhododendrons was a surprise – we must have missed it when we visited once, many years ago.
There is lots of play equipment for the under-12s, as well as plenty of grass to run around on, toilets, including accessible ones (they require a RADAR key – I contacted the JRT after our trip to check if this was the case and they said the park staff always have a spare one) and there was also a pop-up reading café in operation the day we went.
Noticeboards by each entrance have a plan of the layout of the park and leaflets about the park, the wildlife and the trees which you can also download from their website and there are signposts pointing out where things are. There is information about the park on DisabledGo, but as ever, it’s completely contradictory, including saying that there isn’t level access to the accessible loo! This is why sites with reviews are a much more reliable source of information – I shall submit a review to what is probably the most extensive one, Euan’sGuide, soon!
I can imagine us going back to The Homestead Park in summer to see how the formal beds have changed – it’s not a long visit (unless you sat in the sun for a while or spent a long time in the reading café!) but it was such a pleasure!
Another lovely York park is of course Rowntree Park with its pond, café, play equipment and ducks!
It is very pleasant to pootle along by the river in York – the Millennium Bridge gives great views up and down the river, there are benches and information plaques here and there,
viewing platforms which jut out to give good views of the river, there are often rowers to watch or people to wave at on the pleasure boats and it’s all so green and pleasant!
The cycle path heading from the bridge out towards Bishopthorpe is a little bumpy in places where tree roots have raised the tarmac but nothing too drastic and of course, you need to be aware of cyclists coming along! Heading the other way takes you to Rowntree Park or you could head right along towards the city centre on either side of the river.
The park is looking lovely just now with roses and clematis on the pergola and the herbaceous borders, if not quite so well-tended as they once were, are still full of colour. The café was busy with people enjoying the view, the kids’ play areas were in full swing and families and dog-walkers were all enjoying this splendid park!
York University campus is a great place for spotting ducks, geese and great crested grebes on the lake and all manner of other birdlife as well as squirrels and rabbits. At this time of year you can spot daffodils, crocuses, hellebores, cowslips, blossom, trees coming out into leaf and, yes, lots of ducklings! The Heslington Lane side of campus which has fewer humans was alive with birdsong when we visited.
I can’t find anything official but as far as I know the public has every right to
visit the campus, as if it were a public park and visit it they certainly do – obviously it’s quieter and easier to park during the university holidays. Their website explains that disabled parking is free of charge and at evenings and weekends the pay-and-display parking bays are free too.
Generally, the whole campus is accessible, although there are building works going on which restrict access in places, and for anyone who has known the campus for some time, an immense amount of in-fill building, but generally there is an alternative route if one is blocked. The buildings are mainly open and many have accessible loos. (Heslington East, the new campus, is also accessible and has a lake but being so new, it has less interest in the way of trees, shrubs and wildlife).
Some paths can be muddy and there were plenty of puddles after recent rain when we went, but generally getting around is fairly smooth – just occasionally transitions between surfaces were a bit of a jolt and there’s one steep bit by the lake that I tend to avoid but it’s a big enough campus that missing out a small bit doesn’t matter! There are examples of topiary, the odd bit of modern sculpture and carved tree stumps which all add to the interest as well as information boards about the wildlife.
It’s a very attractive campus with its lake, trees and bridges and a great asset for York to have such a huge expanse of, in effect, managed parkland that everyone can visit.
Rowntree Park is full of daffodils in bloom and plenty of trees which will soon be blossoming, others which are coming into leaf and there was a coot which looked very much like it was sitting on some eggs!
The park is recovering from the floods around Christmas time and is very muddy in places but the tarmac paths are perfectly accessible although there were a few puddles out on the paths by the Millennium Bridge.
If ever you are going somewhere with someone with mobility, hearing, visual or other impairment, it’s worth having a look at the DisabledGo website first. It has access information about a good range of places in the UK. You can search for accessible places such as restaurants, hotels, shops and parks in a particular place and they are listed along with symbols to say if they have ramp access, accessible toilets, large print menu, if the staff have disability awareness training. This part is compiled by surveyors from the website.
For most places but not all you can click for a more detailed description of the access. The different categories of information, for example, parking, outside access, toilets, will expand to give further detail such as distances, whether doors are automatic, light levels etc. and sometimes there are photos which is a really good idea.
However I find I am still not entirely sure whether a venue is accessible or not. The description might say ‘There is not level access’ then in another section it talks of ramps without making it clear exactly where it is you can find the level entrance if there is one. I wonder if the issue arises from venues filling out a form rather than describing the access themselves. At least the form-filling means they mention plenty of issues such as colour contrast or whether there is piped music but in the end, I would not feel confident visiting some of these venues without checking with them first about access.
I investigated a particular York restaurant that is accessible but according to DisabledGo it has an accessible toilet that does not have level access to it! I checked with the venue and indeed, they do have level access to the accessible toilet and I suggested they might like to get the error corrected but it is still there – either unreported or uncorrected! Another restaurant, which I know has a step to get in, has the symbol for ramped access – does this mean they will provide a ramp? It is not explained. An entry for a York park says it does not have level access to get in but if you click the additional information it explains that the ramp bypasses the steps – you could easily miss that information (plus I know there are several other entrances which are level anyway) and it says there is not level access once you are in but again I know it does as I go there often with my scooter! Elsewhere, a country park mentions that some paths have steps but does not actually say they provide you with a map so that you can avoid them. Am I nit-picking?
Anyway, potentially a really useful site and definitely worth consulting but it is still worth checking with the venue if you need to confirm some of the details.
Rowntree Park is always lovely but particularly so in Autumn and just fabulous right now! In Spring it has daffodils and ducklings; there is a ‘reading-café’ which is accessible, a children’s play area and tennis club and you can access the river walkways with their viewing points and the Millennium footbridge over the River Ouse. Parking is reached via Terry Avenue.
The paths are smooth so the whole place is eminently scootable as are the paths by the river. Look out for the flood levels on the dove cote (itself a memorial to Rowntree’s workers who died in WW1) – the one from 2000 is way above your head!
The drawback is that the park does flood so is sometimes closed while levels recede and the place dries out a bit. Also the large amount of geese (or rather their droppings) do mean you can’t just sit anywhere on the grass but there are plenty of benches.