"The Big Community Challenge inspires us to make a positive impact on both the environment and our local community, all within the reach of our own doorstep."

Holly Hennell, Manager at York Cares


The Big Community Challenge is an annual project, coordinated by York Cares.

Organised in partnership with the City of York Council’s Environment and Communities (ECO) Team, the Big Community Challenge brings employers together over a month to make a transformational change in urban green spaces across the city.

It is an opportunity to come together, to be part of something BIG in the city and to make a real difference to our local environment.

“We see such big improvements to the environment, which in turn supports the wonderful wildlife that uses our green spaces, and allows communities to connect to their local patch.” Maria Gill, Ecology Officer, St. Nicks

"The volunteers transformed parts of the city, and the love and care has restored people’s pride in their local neighbourhoods. It has genuinely helped to shape places where people and wildlife can thrive."

Cllr. Kate Ravilious, Executive Member for Environment & Climate Emergency, City of York Council


Our Big Community Challenge has focused on the maintenance and restoration of river and wetland areas in York with the aim to preserve and improve biodiversity across the city.

In 2023, we wanted to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the University of York, our institutional home, and to strengthen our collaboration with St Nicks, inspired by their participation in our impactful Big Community Challenge in 2022.

Through thoughtful discussions with our partners, a seed of an idea sprouted — to create a project that spanned all corners of the city. This vision began to materialise as we developed a challenge that centred on the city's rich heritage, emphasising the preservation and revitalisation of its river and wetland areas.

In June 2023, we collaborated with six partners to run 45 sessions held at 15 sites across York. This saw the active involvement of 556 volunteers representing 19 employers and the local community.

“It was incredible to see almost 600 volunteers come together to make such a huge impact to their local community.” Louise Soulsby, UK External Communications Director, Aviva and York Cares Board Director

The project garnered significant attention from local and regional media, which has effectively raised the profile of York Cares across the city.


The success of the Challenge has been marked by a new 23m long mural in Foss Walk, commissioned by York BID and created by Yorkshire-based artist, Selkie Ray. Featuring an underwater landscape filled with wildlife, it celebrates nature and the restoration of the river and wetland areas.

"Creating this mural in such a beautiful location has been a real joy. I’m very thankful to have been part of such a wonderful project." Selkie Ray

Holly Hennell, Manager at York Cares, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to work in partnership with York BID to bring a vision of a mural on Foss walkway to life.

"The mural perfectly captures the work we have been doing across the city this June for our Big Community Challenge to transform river and wetland areas, and reflects the importance of our waterways."

The mural runs along Foss Walk behind Travis Perkins and Majestic Wines, an area which has been heavily graffitied in the past and a busy route for locals accessing the city centre by foot or bike.

"In our 60th anniversary year, it was fitting that this has been our biggest ever community challenge, capturing the hearts and busy hands of our community."

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor and President (University of York)


In 2023, we embarked on our 15th and most ambitious challenge yet, fuelled by the belief that, with increased volunteer participation, we can achieve even greater feats. Going forward, we are engaging in talks with the City of York Council’s ECO Team, St. Nicks, and the University of York, to explore potential sites for future projects. 

Our vision is to seamlessly integrate our efforts with St. Nicks' Green Corridors York project, a strategic move aimed at enhancing and expanding green spaces throughout the city. This collaborative initiative holds immense significance in bolstering the environmental sustainability of our beloved city.



York Cares is an independent employee-volunteering charity, which brings businesses, employees and communities together to make York a better place. We work in a collaborative way with a wide range of partners, including employers, local schools and voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, to create meaningful opportunities for volunteers to give back to their community. 

Volunteering with York Cares is a fantastic way to make a positive impact in your local community. By giving your time and skills to support vulnerable people, you can help make a real difference in the lives of those who need it most. Whether you're interested in bringing the world of work to life for young people, supporting older people, or volunteering on practical activities in urban green spaces, York Cares has a wide range of opportunities to suit all interests and skills. So why not get involved today? Visit the York Cares website to learn more about their programmes and how you can get involved.