A lovely walk and picnic on 5th May marked the launch of a new phase of our York Becks Project. We couldn’t have wished for a sunnier day and were pleased to see good numbers attending including the Lord Mayor and Civic Party. We started at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall whose manager, Lauren Marshall, talked to us briefly about the impact of the December 2015 floods on the building and the repairs they’ve had to make.
It was very interesting to hear how water rushed in through the medieval walls but then also fairly quickly dried out without causing too much damage so the hall was reopened to visitors by mid February 2016. More modern parts of the building, as well as other less old properties that the company owns along Fossgate, have fared much worse. Some are still closed and having lots of damp issues. It seems that medieval builders were better prepared for flooding and made sure their buildings could cope with it by using simple materials and methods. Following in their footsteps, the hall is now focusing on building further resilience to floods by, for instance, permanently moving their precious silver collection upstairs and other measures. Although they hope that the Foss Barrier will not fail again, the hall is right next to the Foss so is always at risk and needs to be prepared. The challenge for modern builders is making buildings that are not only flood-resilient but, unlike medieval buildings, also energy efficient.
The next stop on our walk was The National Centre for Early Music located in St Margaret’s Church on Walmgate. Although not directly linked to the project, we wanted to use the opportunity to show people the beautiful Romanesque doorway which had come from the St Nicholas Church that gave St Nicks its name (St Nicholas Fields had a much better ring to it than the Tang Hall Tip!). We see it as a great example of upcycling, which fits in nicely with what we do. Hannah Witcomb, NCEM Operations and Events Manager, kindly told us a bit about the history of the church and the work of the Centre, and then we moved on to the Foss.
Nature Reserve Manager Jonathan Dent took over from there to tell us about the York Becks Projects. He led the walkers past the place where Tang Hall Beck culvert joins the river Foss (and where our visiting otter must sneak through the unappealing grilles to get to St Nicks), along the Foss Island cycle track to St Nicks Environment Centre. We finished the walk with a plastic-free picnic (we’re undertaking a zero plastic challenge after all!).
Thanks to an attending council officer we also learnt about how the Foss basin flood defences and good sustainable urban drainage work, how the December 2015 flooding developed and how our becks work fits into the bigger picture of building York’s resilience to flooding. While we cannot compete with mechanical flood defences, a lot of water can be slowed down and absorbed by green spaces so improving and expanding them does help. If you would like to part of it all or learn more, join our York Becks events.
Our big thanks go to: