Westgate Parks are four distinctly different landscape character areas. Together they form a delightful stretch of recreational land which follows the Great Stour River from the heart of Canterbury’s busy city centre into the countryside.
You can start to enjoy the riverside walks from the medieval Westgate Towers in the city centre. They begin in picturesque formal gardens and wind through picnic sites and a children’s play area to water meadows and an ancient island full of wildlife.
- Westgate Gardens – once the splendid home and gardens of a notable Canterbury family. The area can be traced back to the Roman occupation of 2,000 years ago, and beyond.
- Toddlers Cove – once Canterbury’s water park with swimming, paddling and boating pools and possibly the site of Roman occupation. It is now a starting – or finishing – point for the Great Stour Way, a three mile path for walkers and cyclists.
- Tannery Field, a riverside meadow and woodland beside Rheims Way.
- The wild, wooded Bingley Island where there is evidence that Stone Age men and women once walked.
Together these sites amount to 12 hectares of historic riverside parkland – enough space for about 15 football pitches.
Transforming the Westgate Parks
Some years ago Canterbury City Council began to plan to improve and enhance this part of the city. The Canterbury Society was one of several community associations which became involved. Community groups, businesses, educational, church and community organisations, together with the City Council, formed a group called the Friends of Westgate Parks. Council staff and councillors worked with the Friends’ steering group. Together they made a case for a £770,000 Heritage Lottery Fund Parks for People grant.
The council has spent £40,000 on extending the Stour Way pedestrian/cycle path alongside the river through Toddlers Cove and the Rheims Way underpass to link with Whitehall Road. Another £80,000 has been earmarked by the council for bridge improvements in the parks.
There is also £275,000 available from contributions made by property developers under an amenity scheme known as S106.
The Westgate Parks project received a huge shot in the arm in the summer of 2013, when the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) approved a grant of £770,000. Renovation of the gardens began at once. At the time of writing the new playground has been completed, a physic garden is being created and many other improvements are going ahead. An exciting programme of activities for children and adults is bringing new life to the park.
Find out more about the Friends of Westgate Parks: