Situated at the end of the High Street, Sandford Park is one of Cheltenham's lesser known treasures. It is well used by many as a pleasant route to work, or for quiet lunch breaks in the sun. 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. The cascades are a popular training ground for ducklings in the springtime and if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a local kingfisher! The Annecy Gardens, named after one of Cheltenham's twin towns, are to the north side of the park, and the Italian Gardens, complete with sunken pool and fountains, lie to the west.
The name Sandford is derived from the sandy soil and the old ford over the brook. Sandford is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was the site of Barretts Mill, the largest of the three mills on the banks of the River Chelt. Designed by the landscape architect Milner White, Sandford Park was acquired by the borough council in 1927. Since that date, a number of changes have been made, the most recent being the laying out of the Twinning Gardens. Features in the park include Unwins Fountain, an ornamental pond, rockery and the Friendship Circle. The park is home to a range of bird life and is well known for its squirrels, many of which are quite tame.
Extensive works to rejuvenate the park began during the winter of 2002 and have recently been completed. The park's main water feature has been restored to full working order and overgrown shrub beds have been cleared and replanted with new material selected for its spring interest and autumn colour. As well as enhancing the park aesthetically, this has also increased the security of the park's users and has led to many favourable comments.
Text © 2018 Neela Mann
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'.
Erected in 1901, it was designed and carved by the ecclesiastical sculptor A.B. Wall of Whaddon Road. The fountain with its weather vane was 22ft high with a canopy carved out of a solid piece of Seaton stone 7ft square. It was originally sited in Westall Green.
In 1919 the town was given a redundant WW1 tank in thanks for the town's war effort and the tank was placed beside the fountain. On its journey to the ceremony beside the fountain it broke down three times on the way from St. James Station and arrived two hours late. The speech referred to it as being a "lady" tank!
The fountain was moved to the Keynsham Road end of Sandford Park when the Westall improvement scheme, including the building of the petrol station, was carried out, but the fountain has lost its weather vane.
Text © 2018 Neela Mann