Westgate Parks – diverse past, exciting future

Canterbury’s Westgate Parks, formed in 2012, bring together four areas of land beside Kent’s Great Stour – which have very different histories, but an inter-connected and exciting future

Furthest upstream from Westgate Towers is Bingley Island, part of Whitehall Meadows nature reserve. Opposite is Toddler’s Cove. In 1876 this became the site of an open air swimming pool that only closed in the 1970s. Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, Toddler’s Cove is today Canterbury’s most popular adventure playground. Tannery Field, with its open spaces and wildflower meadow, lies next to Rheims Way. Steve Portchmouth’s iconic Iron Bull marks the Field’s connection with the former St Mildred’s Tannery, founded in the 1790s.

Watch the iconic Iron Bull's installation.
Iron Bull
Steve Portchmouth’s Iron Bull

The fourth and perhaps best known element of Westgate Parks is Westgate Gardens. This lovely ornamental park once belonged to Tower House. Home to the locally important Williamson family, in 1936 Stephen and Catherine Williamson gave Tower House, its gardens, and Tannery Field to the City. The Gardens are steeped in history. Beneath the lawns lie foundations of a major section of the Roman city wall, and the point where Roman Watling Street crossed the river. The Oriental Plane, with its massive and distinctive trunk, is over 200 years old. More recently, the Physic Garden was created in 2015 during the HLF Parks for People project.

Westgate Gardens
Westgate Gardens

Education programs

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

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Canterbury Festival

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

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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