Days out: St Nicks Field, the ‘jewel in the heart of York’

Apple Day at St Nicks… Photographs: St Nicholas Fields
12 Apr 2013 @ 5.21 pm
| Entertainment
Apple Day at St Nicks… Photographs: St Nicholas Fields
Apple Day at St Nicks… Photographs: St Nicholas Fields

Just one mile from the city centre, St Nicholas Fields was once used as York’s rubbish tip. Today it’s a haven for both wildlife and people. This is why one Green Flag award judge called it “the jewel in the heart of York”.

The 24-acre nature reserve and home of York Environment Centre has a lot to offer, especially now spring has sprung. Visitors are welcome to walk the easy access Tree Trail and other paths, looking out for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Among the species regularly spotted are bullfinch, sparrowhawk, kingfisher and water vole.

To find out more about the wildlife, you could join one of the seasonal guided walks or the Wildwatch group on their regular surveys.

The amount of diversity of wildlife has surprised me, for we’re about a mile away from the centre of York, surrounded by houses!

Ian, the photographer of the Wildwatch group

Families will enjoy the children’s play area with picnic benches which makes a good base for brambling forays in summer. A carpet of cowslips provides a great display in spring and seasonal changes can be colourfully mapped through the green, yellow and red of the sedum “living roof” of York Environment Centre.

The striking centre building showcases a number of green features, such as renewable energy production and passive solar design. It is used as an education centre for visiting schools and other groups who come to learn about environmental issues such as recycling, composting, renewable energy, green design and biodiversity.

Guided tours and talks for groups are available too. Visitors are welcome to pop in to pick up and ask for information on these issues or to simply enjoy the centre garden with its demonstration beds showing square foot gardening, wildlife, container and permaculture gardening, plus an impressive compost bin display. This unique York venue is also available for hire for everything from training courses to children’s parties.

All ages are welcome
All ages are welcome
Even the wildlife is happy at St Nicks
Even the wildlife is happy at St Nicks
Volunteers are the backbone of St Nicks
Volunteers are the backbone of St Nicks

St Nicholas Fields, also known as St Nicks, is a charity which manages the nature reserve and runs a number of sustainability projects. Its main mission is enabling people in York and beyond to move towards a sustainable future. You may have seen St Nicks recycling team on their load-bearing tricycles or driving “Beryl”, the yellow electric vehicle.

The team collects recyclable materials from city centre households, including some unusual ones such as plastic pens and coffee packaging. This climate-friendly (and quieter) recycling service has won national awards.

The charity’s work would be impossible without its many volunteers and there are plenty of volunteering opportunities for everyone, no matter how much or little time one can spare. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, get active and get satisfaction from helping a good cause.

It’s nice to feel that you are appreciated. Coming here is a social thing… I can spend half a day here and have all sorts of people to talk to.

Jean, a regular garden volunteer

So why not pay a visit to St Nicks and meet the friendly staff and volunteers? Whether you enjoy one of the events or just have a wander around, you’re bound to find something of interest. Make 2013 the year of discovering St Nicholas Fields!

Getting there

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  • Walking or cycling: either go along the Sustrans Cycle path no 66, or along Lawrence St and turn down Bull Lane or use the entrance on Melrosegate between the Post Office and Beckside Gardens
  • Coming by bus: buses no 6/6A (Purple Line) go to Melrosegate, buses no 10/10A (Claret Line) and no 8 (Yellow Line) stop in Lawrence Street. For up-to-date bus timetables and routes, please see the First website
  • Coming by car: From Lawrence Street (A1079) turn down Melrosegate and take the first left Harington Avenue. At the bottom of this road you will see the wind turbine and the entrance way, through this is the car park