The Dane John Gardens are huge and packed during summer.
They are located by the Canterbury East train station, and you can wander along the old city walls - one side the modern ring road-the other the beautiful green gardens!
When you arrive by train in Canterbury from London London you will most likely arrive in Canterbury East Station. From here it is about a 10-15 minutes walk into the town centre. It is a lovely stroll and of course there are many ways to the centre. However I suggest you walk through the Dane John Garden. This garden is very well taken care of with lots of flowers and big trees. On the western side of the gardens you can see lots of old houses that are a perfect addition to the garden. On the eastern side the garden is bordered by the city walls.
The garden is excellent to walk through or to relax in after a long day in Canterbury. When the sun's out it's a perfect place to work on your tan too. You could also take some of your friends here and a couple of beers or perhaps your spouse and a bottle of wine for a nice picnic. Anyway do whatever you like, since the Dane John Garden is a fantastic place!!
A park within Canterbury city's walls dates back to 1551, and includes a mound which historical records prove was there in the first century AD. In 1790, local dignitary Alderman James Simmons laid out the park into formal gardens. With a 1 million pound renovation in 1999, the park was transformed into attractive gardens with monuments and memorials, a bandstand for summertime concerts, a central fountain, a tearoom and children's maze
The City walls, and an avenue of lime trees, form and enclosure allowing one to escape from the noise and hustle from the city center. From the top of Dane John Mound there are excellent views of the city and countryside. Dane John is a corruption of donjon which is the Norman name for mound on which a castle is built
Danejohn Gardens seems to have been pretty much wasteland in between being used as the original site of Canterbury's motte-and-bailey castle and being remodelled by Alderman Simmons in the 1790s.
Public access was allowed since at least the 12th century, and the area was used by Medieval citizens for drying and bleaching clothes (amongst other activities). Plague victims were housed there (in tents) and during the 1700s it was used as a military place of execution and burial. The city's waste was collected and dumped in the area, and the Black Drain..and open sewer...ran across the western end.
Not a very pleasant place at all, until Alderman Simmons leased it from the city council and set about getting it landscaped!
He did a good job, to be fair. As well as landscaping the enormous Danejohn mound (see tip) the gardens were set out to provide shady walks and a sense of quiet within the city's bustle.
There's a rather lovely avenue of lime trees, fountains, a bandstand, a superb wooden maze for children to explore, wartime air-raid shelters (not accessible), memorials and sculptures.
A lovely place to spend an hour or so, whatever the time of year.
The mound in Dane John Gardens can be climbed for a good view of Canterbury. Dane John is actually an anglicized version of the French word donjon, which means "mound where a castle is built". A fort was built here by the Normans in 1066 but later abandoned. The mound is also believed to be a Roman burial ground.
This memorial in Dane John Gardens was dedicated to the Boer War in South Africa. It reads:
"To the officers, non commissioned officers and men of the Buffs - East Kent Regiment and of the Imperial Yeomanry of East Kent who gave their lives in the country's cause during the war in South Africa 1899-1902"