Westgate Gardens

A visit to Canterbury today. It was sunny when we left Tunbridge Wells. It was foggy when we parked at Toddler’s Cove by the Westgate Gardens in Canterbury.

But having found out that the series of green spaces here have also had a Heritage Lottery Funded make-over, like our park , there was time for a walk around en-route to my parent’s house in Littlebourne, for lunch.

Like the Grosvenor part of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park, the Westgate Gardens have a Victorian legacy, and also a water element, with the River Stour running through the centre.

Although I had visited this park many times in my childhood, and early youth, the information boards were still educational. Having not walked around for ten years or so, it was harder to spot the physical lottery funded changes though. Plus, it seems some parts have been left alone.

What I never realised before: a Roman gateway was discovered in this part of the park

I think maybe the stones lain in the grass in the 1950s to mark the discovery had slowly become overgrown with the grass by the 1970s.

The circular walk finished in the field opposite the old tannery, marked with this bull sculpture. Walking back through the playground to the car park, I still have vague memories of the sand-pit, circular boating-lake and pedalo pool of Toddler’s Cove. But it was a revelation to find out that just after WW2, when the original swimming pool was changed to the pedalo pool, and ‘Holiday at Home’ was created, that my Dad helped with the donkeys. At that time his family lived in Stour Street, on the corner of Jewry lane, having spent the war years at Folly Farm in St Stephens. Wandering down to Toddler’s Cove, aged about 8, he made friends with Bill Dunk who looked after the donkeys, and was asked if he’d like to help lead the donkeys, in exchange for free rides. The donkeys lived in Nissan huts, in the area between the Whitehall Road gates and the start of the play area, and of the six, my dad can remember the names of Ginger (the skitty one), Charlie, Bill and Peggy.

My other memories of the Gardens are art exhibitions, Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls helping to re-landscape Toddler’s Cove in the early 1980s, gypies moving in and living there in the late 1980s (for several months I seem to remember), swans, crows and ornamental flower beds.

Must visit again on a sunny day.

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