Springtime Serenity – Exploring Cheltenham’s Parks and Gardens

24th March 2024

As the chill of winter fades away and the vibrant hues of spring emerge, there’s no better time to explore the natural beauty that Cheltenham has to offer. From blooming gardens to serene parks, this picturesque town in Gloucestershire, comes alive with the colours and scents of the season. Join us as we embark on a journey through Cheltenham’s most enchanting parks and gardens.

Pittville Park

Located a few minutes walk from the centre of Cheltenham, Pittville Park is arguably the pick of all of Cheltenham’s parks. This sprawling green space boasts picturesque lakes, manicured lawns, and vibrant flowerbeds that burst into colour during the spring months. Opened in 1825, Pittville Park is the largest ornamental park in Cheltenham and features the magnificent Pump Room and lakes. This park is given a grade 2 listing under the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens. Situated within the park is Pittville Lake where you can hire rowing boats.

The Pittville Pump Room a grade 1 historic building was the last and largest of the spa buildings to be built in Cheltenham. The benefits of Cheltenham’s mineral waters had been recognised since 1716, but not until after the arrival of Henry Skillicorne in 1738, did serious exploitation of their potential as an attraction begin. The Pump Room was built by Joseph Pitt, and it took five years to build, opening in 1830.

The Heritage Café Orangery offers art deco style café culture right next door to the Pump Room. Serving a range of hot and cold food, from coffee and cakes to sausage rolls and wraps, the café is the perfect place to enjoy views over the park. Pittville Park also has a vast children’s play area, including sand and water play area (spare set of dry clothes recommended) plus several aviaries where you’ll find popular birds and bunnies.

Montpellier Gardens

Montpellier Gardens lie right in the heart of the town centre, just across the road from the bustling Montpellier area of shops, bars and restaurants. The gardens are an important part of Cheltenham’s regency landscape. Most of the park facilities are in the southern section and includes tennis courts, a café, toddlers’ play area and toilets. You’ll also find a community art gallery, Gardens Gallery which exhibits local artists’ work for the public. If you’re lucky you may also catch a live concert on the bandstand during the summer months. The bandstand was built in 1864 and is believed to be the oldest in the country that is still in regular use.

The larger informal northern section of the Gardens is used for walking, sitting, picnics and games. In the north-western corner of the park there’s a small arboretum where you’ll find some interesting and unusual trees. The gardens play host to many of the Town’s Festivals including the Literature, Jazz and Food and Drink Festivals as well as the family fun day the Midsummer Fiesta.

Montpellier Gardens is also home to a couple of notable royal monuments. A statue of William IV was erected by public subscription in 1833 to commemorate the King’s coronation. It was moved from Imperial Gardens to the current site in 1920. The Jubilee Seat, located on the west side of the gardens, was commissioned by the Cheltenham Arts Council in 2003 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee.

Sandford Park

Situated at the end of the High Street, Sandford Park is one of Cheltenham’s lesser known treasures, just 4 minutes walk from StayLets. The recreational side of the park, across College Road and adjacent to Sandford Lido, is popular for picnics and games, and also has a large play area and toilets. The ornamental side of the park is divided into three sections. The main part houses a fountain with seating, landscaped beds, and stunning flower displays in the summer months.

A meandering path leads to the restful cascade pools and the River Chelt, one of the few parts of the town where the river is visible. The Annecy Gardens, named after one of Cheltenham’s twin towns in France, are to the north side of the park, and the Italian Gardens, complete with sunken pool and fountains, lie to the west.

At the Keynsham Road end of the park can be found the Whish Fountain. The fountain was donated by the three Whish sisters to the town. The sisters had long been members of St Stephen’s church and donated the fountain in 1891 to commemorate their 50 years as Cheltenham residents. It was to ‘give refreshment to many a thirsty little child and weary man and woman, a present to the town, by three of St Stephen’s oldest friends’.

Sandford Park is home to a rich and diverse collection of trees, several of which are native to America. They include the Indian Bean Tree, the Tulip Tree, Rowan Tree, Judas Tree, Sweet Gum, Common Oak, Turkey Oak, Robinia Tree, Horse Chestnut and Scots Pine.

Imperial Gardens 

The Imperial Gardens are located just off the Promenade, at the rear of Cheltenham Town Hall. It’s formal style, was laid out just after the Second World War, and each year, approximately 25,000 bedding plants are used to produce the magnificent floral displays.
This beautiful garden was originally landscaped and planted as a pleasure garden for the wealthy users of the Sherborne Spa (later Imperial Spa) which was built and opened in 1818 on the site which is now the Queen’s Hotel. The gardens still retain some of the original Regency features including the central fountain.

The gardens are flanked by extensive Regency facades, with the Regency terrace townhouses encompassing three sides. Many have now become offices, although some remain intact as houses and apartments, most featuring regency ironwork and imposing front steps. The gardens were surrounded by wrought Iron railings until 1940, when like those from many towns and cities they were sacrificed for the war effort, melted down and used in ships and munitions (although exactly how much of this occurred is subject to much conjecture). The Friends of Imperial Square are in the process of having these railings restored.

Imperial Gardens is also home to the imposing Holst Statue. Gustav Holst was at the heart of the renaissance in English music during the first half of the 20th century and his statue was unveiled in 2008. Holst was born at 4 Clarence Road in Cheltenham, (now home to the Holst Birthplace Museum), on 21 September 1874. Influenced by William Morris’s ideals of socialism, he believed that every person should have the opportunity to make music. It is as the composer of The Planets, one of the world’s most popular masterpieces that Holst became famous. His other works – some 400 in number – include opera, ballet, symphonies and vocal music.

A Twin Towns Signpost can also be found in Imperial Gardens. Cheltenham was one of the first towns to forge formal links to others in the 1950’s. Cheltenham is twinned with the following towns around the world – Annecy (France), Cheltenham (USA), Gottingen (Germany), Sochi (Russia), Weihai (China) and has friendship links with Kisumu (Kenya) and Stampersgat (Holland). The distance to each of these is shown on the signpost.

In the warmer months, visitors can enjoy The Garden Bar which serves pizzas, fries, breakfast baps, draught beer, light lunches, morning coffee, cakes and pastries, ice cream, wines, ciders, bottled beers and cocktails. In a relatively recent development. You are also spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options – The Nook on Five (Cheltenham’s only rooftop restaurant which overlooks the gardens), Bosco Pizzeria, Sef Steakhouse, Brasserie Blanc and 131 can all be found immediately adjacent to the gardens.

Winston Churchill Gardens

Winston Churchill Memorial Garden (to commemorate the famous World War 2 Prime Minister) is a small urban park discreetly tucked behind the Lower High Street shops. The gardens have a number of historical elements such as the formal rose garden, pergola, clipped yew avenue and St Mary’s Mission building. It is still possible to see some of the headstones along the northern perimeter wall. In the centre of the rose garden stands a drinking fountain which is surrounded by words, phrases and simple line drawings gathered from local children and adults to symbolise how they feel about the gardens. The images are pressed into blue engineering bricks, once used on the railway line that runs parallel to the gardens.

The Long Gardens – The Promenade

Not a park as such, but too significant to ignore. Flanking the traditional tree-lined walk are the colourful Long Gardens, just in front of the Municipal Buildings. These gardens are laid out with an ever-changing display of ornamental bedding plants and at one end The Neptune Fountain can be found. This was modelled on the Trevi fountain in Rome and was added in 1893. The Long Gardens are also home to a commemorative statue of explorer Edward Wilson, built in 1906, who was born in Cheltenham and died on Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1910-12. You will also be able to see the imposing cenotaph of Cheltenham’s War Memorial and the Cheltenham Boer War Memorial here too.

We hope you enjoy exploring and experiencing Cheltenham’s Parks and Gardens. Whatever your plans, StayLets is the perfect pitstop to return to after a day out exploring what the town has to offer. Our short-term let apartments are situated right in the heart of Cheltenham, where you can stay for just one night or longer, they range from a studio room all the way through to a five-bedroom apartment, there are plenty of choices to suit your size of party. Find out more here.