Skip to content Accessibility statement

University supports ambitious project to transform local wetlands

Posted on 8 March 2023

The University of York is supporting an ambitious project called The Big Community Challenge, which will transform York’s wetlands and riverbanks as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.

Volunteers taking part in the York Cares Big Community Challenge 2022 at Westfield Marsh (Image: Supplied)

It is taking place at locations around York this summer and will include the creation of bog gardens, wildflower planting, riverbank restoration and a new wetland area in Rowntree Park.

Organisers hope the work will help safeguard the future of York’s water voles and will improve the habitats of endangered Tansy Beetles.


Staff and students are being urged to get involved with the project, which takes place in June, to support York’s wider local biodiversity action plan. The work will create new habitats for wildlife, build better access to nature across the city and promote healthy living.

The Big Community Challenge is being coordinated by the volunteering charity York Cares, which is looking to recruit a record number of volunteers to take part. The City of York Council’s Environment and Communities team and St Nicks Nature Reserve & Environment Centre are also partners in the project. 

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, said: “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.”

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.


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 coordinating extra dedicated days each week for the local community to lend a hand so that even more people can get involved.”

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.

Further information:

Explore more news

Media enquiries

Alistair Keely
Head of Media Relations

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153