16 June 2006
However handsome they make Hungate’s planned piazzas, they’ll have to work hard to match the beauty of this, made by a small seed landing on the derelict ground. I wandered through the Hungate area in June 2006, to see if anything had changed since I came here with the camera on one of my earliest ‘York Walks’ in 2004, and I found this foxglove in full bloom, perfectly placed in front of cream-coloured railings, with a dark-leaved tree behind.
In the nearby city centre that we keep tidy for tourists, the flowers are all bedding plants in carefully-prepared planters. In our urge to redevelop everything I hope we don’t forget that some small corners may be best left untended, so the foxgloves can grow. Personally I think this elegant wild flower is worth a hundred begonias.
The rest of this area was less photogenic, particularly on a rather overcast afternoon.
Overlooking this area, on its edges, there are several landmark buildings. Above left, the old brick warehouse building, now listed, and known as Rowntree Wharf. One of those confident Victorian industrial creations, like the chimney (left), also a listed structure. Though it is across the other side of the river, it towers over this derelict land, its tall thin shape nicely reflected by a line of tall thin trees – presumably an accidental effect.
Equally confident, and equally of its time, but universally accepted as hideously ugly, the 20th century Stonebow House (above right) is on the other side of the site. It too has been suggested for listing – but on an "X-list" of buildings that should be pulled down.
Inbetween, various nondescript buildings with their windows boarded up still occupy this soon-to-be-redeveloped site.
The area was used for car parking for a time. Since then, areas have been colonised by weeds, growing so strongly that it would be easy to forget we’re so close to the city centre. The ubiquitous buddleia has taken root, with the inevitable sycamore.
Alongside this burgeoning vegetation, the sleepy-looking River Foss, reflecting Rowntree Wharf as it has done for a hundred years or more. Soon there will be new reflections.
In this corner of the site, parts of buildings remain, looking as they have for years. Not serving any purpose apparently apart from providing a bit of shelter for the car parking.
One building though is very much in use, by the York Bedding Company, who appear to be thriving here still, on the edge of this strange and rather derelict area.
The City of York Council website has more information on the Hungate development area.