New city wall sign to be produced

The old interpretative panel at the south-west end of Westgate Gardens is in a terrible condition, and is now beyond repair. We are fortunate in having been promised a £2500 grant by the Martello Fund to produce a completely new sign.

There is far too much text in the original, so this will be simplified, using a larger font to make it more legible. Some of the original illustrations will be reused.

Existing city wall panel in a poor state
Existing city wall panel in a poor state

Martello Fund

Swan sculpture commissioned

Last year Canterbury City Council commissioned a competition with students from Canterbury College to produce a design for a sculpture with an environmental theme to be placed in Toddler’s Cove. The winning entry was an elegant ring of ten swan necks and heads, forming a vase-like shape.

The photo shows a small-scale plywood mock-up, but the final sculpture would be built out of stainless steel and stand about six feet high, large enough for children to play among the forest of necks. Unfortunately, the huge increase in the cost of raw materials and energy since then has now put the art project in jeopardy, and it is not presently known if a version made out of cheaper materials will yet be made.

Swan sculpture maquette
Swan sculpture maquette

Wild flower meadow extended

With help from students from Canterbury College, the wild flower meadow in Tannery Field was extended across the tarmac path at the end of 2022, in a bid to give walkers a little bit of the feeling of actually walking through a meadow.

The work involved stripping off all the turf, raking the bare soil, and then scattering wild flower seed that had been collected in the summer. It doesn’t look much at the moment, but should be colourful in a year or two, and attracting in a wide range of insects.

Not much to look at yet!
Not much to look at yet !


The Friends' AGM will be held in the Kent and Canterbury Club, 17 Old Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3JB at 7.00pm on Friday 26th May 2023. There is parking at the back of the building. The formal business will be followed by a talk by David Carey of the Kent Tree and Pond Partnership, who will speak about the work of the partnership.

All are warmly welcomed to attend. The AGM is free, but we would appreciate donations to the Friends group, especially if you plan to stay on for the talk.

Pollinator Action Plan

To tie in with the government’s action plan, we are starting to monitor the flowers in the wild flower meadow in Tannery Field. Initially this involves recording all the species present, but also making use of time-lapse cameras set up on mini-tripods to record insects visiting individual flowers.

This will give us baseline data on the diversity of both insects and plants. Following on from this, we will monitor plant colonisation of the meadow extension on the other side of the tarmac path. This will demonstrate the extent to which the turf-stripping and reseeding programme has aided diversity

Ox eye
The original meadow creation two years after getting established

Physic Garden, Culinary Bed, Lavender Maze and Long-bed

Plants are incredibly important to modern medicine. They are even used to make some of the most effective anti-cancer drugs. Before modern medicine people turned to nature and to nature and, in particular, to herbs and other plants. These they grew in a physic garden called as such using an older meaning the science and practice of medicine (as in physician).

The physic garden in the Westgate Gardens was designed by pupils from Simon Langton Girls Grammar School (SLGGS). There are 7 beds that are separated into plants for 8 parts of the human body. Along with this there is a culinary bed with examples of herbs and plants that are used in our food that keeps us nourished to stay healthy on a daily basis. Apart from this there is a lavender maze intended for toddlers to explore as well as representing the use of the plant in medicine and well-being. Finally there is a long bed that runs along the wall separating the park from Whitehall Road which has been planted with Cotoneaster franchetii a species of Cotoneaster. Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society have found that this variety is very effective in soaking up air pollution when compared to other shrubs.

The garden was planted by the Friends of Westgate Parks volunteers and SLGGS pupils. Every Monday (weather permitting) FoWP volunteers meet in the morning at 10.00 to do a few hours of maintenance work. You are invited to join us in this activity as well as others throughout the year. For the future we are planning to restock the physic garden beds in 2022.

physic garden physic garden
The Physic Garden in the Westgate Gardens

Underpass Mural 2021

At the end of August 2021, I, (Colette Baumback) started the mammoth task of repairing and re painting the Underpass mural in Westgate Parks: The original mural was one of the Heritage Lottery Fund objectives which was undertaken by myself and a host of volunteers back in 2015. Over the years the mural had been vandalised and damaged by tagging and wear and tear, so coming out of the pandemic it was one of our priorities to get the repainting completed.

I knew this was going to be a lot of hard work and it took four weeks in total to renovate the underpass. The walls have been transformed to a vibrant mural reflecting the beauty of the riverbank and the gardens. As always, the Friends were on hand to assist with the work, Michael Walter spent many hours covering the new work with layers of anti-graffiti paint.

Undertaking this project in the underpass was a wonderful experience, I had forgotten how rewarding it is to connect with public. I met so many lovely people and I am truly grateful to the wonderful citizens of Canterbury who showed their support for this project, their response to the work certainly kept me motivated.

- Colette Baumback, Local artist and Trustee.

Underpass mural
Westgate Parks underpass mural

Underpass mural
Colette Baumback

Midge Watch

We recently published the first study of non-biting midges breeding in the Great Stour in The Journal of Natural History. To learn more, follow the link below to read the "Diversity of Chironomidae (Diptera) breeding in the Great Stour, Kent: Baseline results from the Westgate Parks non-biting midge project."

Diversity of Chironomidae

Canterbury Festival

Canterbury Festival

We have a small role in the annual Medieval Pageant -- this year delayed due to covid and then incorporated into the Canterbury Festival. We are hoping that our bit, in collaboration with Canterbury Archaeological Trust, will include viewing of a test pit in a corner of Westgate Gardens (with live interpretation), looking for significant Roman house or temple remains. This is based on a ground resistivity survey just carried out.

Canterbury Festival website

Education programs

Available related education programs include river and bat walks, archaeological digs, and forest school activities for children and adults.

Read more

Canterbury Festival

This year's Canterbury Festival runs from 26th September to 4th November 2023. There's walks, talks, art, performance, music & much more.

Read more

Help the Westgate Friends

We urgently need new volunteers to help maintain the physic garden, assist with collecting litter and also need new trustees – and funds to keep up our activities.

Email us at Westgate Parks friends