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Children playing in Homestead park
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Neighbourhoods and communities

Homestead Park: where people and nature connect and grow, now and for the future

We're creating 2 exciting new roles to nurture the future of York’s Homestead Park. Join our team to support people, nature and community to grow together.

Written by:
Victoria Hughes
Date published:
Reading time:
5 minutes

Homestead Park has been cherished by communities for 120 years. It was gifted to the people of York by social reformer Seebohm Rowntree (son of Joseph Rowntree) so that all individuals, regardless of class or income, could enjoy time in nature.

At JRF, we’re considering this heritage while also turning a new leaf in the story of Homestead Park; we’re looking to the future, and the next 120 years. Seebohm’s gift represents a tradition of giving back to the community and ensuring that public spaces remain accessible to all. We want to uphold this tradition and not only preserve a piece of history but also reaffirm our dedication to creating a park, with a pavilion building as a community space within it, that serves the needs and interests of the people it belongs to.

We plan to draw inspiration from Rowntree’s radical roots, creating a beautiful space for people to come together to connect with each other and with nature.

Communities in the Homestead Gardens in July 1904, the first summer Seebohm Rowntree opened it to the public.
The local community using Homestead Park in July 1904, the first summer Seebohm Rowntree opened it to the public.

An inclusive space

We will strive to make Homestead Park and the pavilion building a radically inclusive space where everyone is warmly welcomed and feels valued and respected. We’ll actively work to remove barriers that can prevent people from connecting with green spaces and community meeting places and engage in inclusive co-design, collaborating with local communities rather than designing for them. We hope that this commitment to inclusivity not only enriches the community using Homestead but also supports inclusivity and acceptance in the wider city.

People's wishes for Homestead Park recorded on labels tied to a tree
Partnering with York-based organisation Social Vision, we consulted the community to discover their hopes and dreams for the future of Homestead Park.

We see this work as part of our wider ambition to foster resilient communities where people and the natural world are able to thrive together. We want to think about how, on our home soil, we can grow opportunities to support JRF’s wider mission to ‘speed up and support the transition to a more equitable and just future, free from poverty in which people and planet can flourish’. Perhaps Homestead Park can be a place to plant the seeds for hopeful futures. 

We will be developing a 10-year plan to help guide our work in Homestead Park, and we’re creating 2 exciting new roles to support this work: a Head of Homestead Park role and Community Engagement Lead. We’ll work alongside community groups and local people to steer the development of Homestead Park and understand how it can serve communities today and for generations to come. 

As our first step in this direction, last summer we collaborated with the York-based organisation Social Vision to carry out a consultation with communities across York to ‘re-imagine’ the future of Homestead Park. We used storytelling, play and mapping to hear from a wide range of people about their hopes and dreams for the future of Homestead Park. You can see the findings of this consultation and a short video with the wonderful people we spoke to.

Listening to communities, our aim is to develop Homestead Park and pavilion as a welcome and inclusive place where people and communities can grow, with nature. We’re committed to developing Homestead Park as a green lung for wildlife and biodiversity, and the beating heart of communities in our city.

Map of Homestead Park
Social Vision’s survey of the park's spaces, delving into the perspectives of diverse communities, we sought to understand the cherished aspects of the park and identify areas for improvement.

Homestead Park will be a place with community at its heart

The true essence of Homestead Park lies not only in its natural beauty but also in the bonds it fosters among people and communities coming together. Within the consultation we heard from people about how important it is to have a free-to-access green space, particularly within a cost of living crisis. Through inclusive programming, educational initiatives and collaborative partnerships, we aspire to cultivate a vibrant community that cherishes and protects this shared treasure for generations to come.

Alongside Homestead Park, Seebohm also gifted a pavilion building which was used by 29 community groups in the 1930s. Until recently, the space has been used by JRF staff as part of their offices, however we are keen to now reinstate the pavilion in line with its original purpose and bring this asset back to community use.

Activities that connect people with each other, and nature

While the full scale of environmental challenges we face today may not have been foreseen by individuals like Seebohm in the past, we now understand the urgent need for action to address climate change. Gardens and parks can support remarkable levels of biodiversity and we want to steward Homestead Park’s 15+ acres as part of a much wider collective action in response to the climate emergency. We’ll collaborate with other organisations and agencies in York, working in the fields of conservation and community development to amplify the impact of collective efforts aimed at addressing environmental and social challenges in York.

We're committed to promoting activities that foster connections between individuals, their community and the natural world. For example, we've collaborated with the wonderful organisation Thrive Outside in York, whose nature-based craft activities enhance both physical and emotional well-being. As we look toward the park's future, we're eager to embrace the ethos of 'homesteading' and explore concepts such as communal gardening, shared meals and crafts, ideas that emerged from consultation with local residents. We’re interested in exploring how Homestead Park can become a catalyst for collective action toward social change and environmental stewardship.

Woman and girl doing forest crafts in Homestead Park
Thrive Outside is a York-based Community Interest Company supporting local communities to connect with nature through craft and gentle physical activities.

Join our team

This is an exciting time for Homestead Park, as we embrace its rich history and collaborate with local groups and residents to reimagine its future where people, nature and communities thrive together. If you're passionate about nurturing growth and playing your part in sowing the seeds of a more vibrant future in York, please consider joining our team.


Image credits: All You Need is Love Photo & Film / JRF archive.

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