Wimbledon – tennis and the other 50 weeks of the year

By | Category: Travel destinations
Centre Court, Wimbledon

At centre court. In the next two weeks, TV coverage of this piece of grass will be massive!

For two weeks it seems the whole world descends on Wimbledon.  Total attendance in 2016 was 493,928.   This included 14 days of tennis with 24,623 attending play on the middle Sunday.

AELTC (The All England Lawn Tennis Club) are proud of their claim that they are the only major sports attraction that has tickets available on the day for purchase.  There are some shortened links below to everything you need to know about getting tickets – or getting into the ground when the big fortnight is on.  Unless rain or any other factor has interfered with the programme for the first week the “middle Sunday” is usually a day off.  But, if you see reports in the worldwide coverage of the tennis of really bad weather in the first week, get down very early on the Sunday or maybe pitch a wee tent the evening before.

In terms of good intelligent management of the large numbers involved, the whole operation really does work and this is due to the good nature, hard work and experience of all the voluntary marshals involved.  And a very early start in warm or “flaming” June never did anyone any harm – and all photography enthusiasts know that pre-dawn early light is described as “wonderful” by some.

media room at Wimbledon

you can even conduct a mock interview were the top seeds appear after each and every one of the matches

Whilst the tennis may last for just two weeks, the museum and visitor centre is open for fifty-two including the main tournament (when admission is only available to ticket holders including Ground Passes only).   The first week “ground only” can be very good as some high ranking players have to start playing through the doubles and mixed doubles tournament.

Ground ticket holders can of course sit on Murray Mound (née Henman Hill) with a giant screen of Centre Court action.    After about 4 pm onwards some people leaving early hand back tickets which are sold on the spot for charity.

Note that payment for tickets and ground passes is cash only. All you need to know about the queue, with ticket prices is, on this link and more general information about the tournament here.

And when the main tennis has finished…

Apart from the tennis, there is riding…

Start with the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and tour of the courts and media centre which are not accessible during the main Tournament.

First you can see much more than on a visit to the museum than during the main tournament (when the museum remains open for ticket holders and those with a £25 day Ground Pass).  During the other fifty weeks there is an opportunity to tour the grounds see all the courts, the media centre and be involved in a great photo op. of a “mock interview” exactly where the stars appear at the end of matches. It is what Andy Murray refers to as “doing the media”.

A launch pad for all the London sites

…sailing…

In terms of “doing London”, Wimbledon is an excellent base as all the main sites are connected by the Underground. There is also a 21 minute mainline journey to Waterloo every couple of minutes for all the South Bank attractions and a river walk to Tower Bridge.

Wimbledon theatres

There are three active theatres:

The Wimbledon Theatre is Grade II listed and was built in 1910. Throughout the year there are productions as it is used for out-of-town “try outs” for West End productions, musicals, and an annual pantomime. The pantomime brings some of the biggest stars to Wimbledon for those based in London can easily get home again. It means the productions are glamorous with carefully and expensively built sets.  This year the panto is Jack and the Beanstalk with Al Murray and the best dame around (I may be slightly biased here) at the moment – Clive Rowe. The theatre is about a ten minute walk from the mainline station and is signposted.

and the theatre.

The Polka Theatre provides a varied programme with workshops for children of all ages and is one of the few dedicated children’s theatres in the country.

New Wimbledon Studio which has stand-up comics, experimental theatre and live opera feeds.  For example, this September there is opera from Sicily streamed from the Teatro Antico di Taormina – the second largest ancient Greek theatre in Italy. Originally a ballroom, legend has it that Adele and Fred Astaire danced here in the 1920’s.

The great sporting outdoors

The big difference between Wimbledon and its environs and most Greater London destinations, in my view, is the scope of open air activities and sports such as, for example, sailing on the lake in Wimbledon Park.   Sailing lessons from scratch are offered for all ages (sessions for seniors on Wednesdays) according to experience. You can also hire boats.

There is the oldest English golf course…

There are five golf courses including two public courses including the London Scottish on Wimbledon Common, the oldest golf course in England.  In addition to the courts I have mentioned, there are four locations of public tennis courts and six smaller private clubs where visitors are always welcome.  There are also three riding stables two of which are in Wimbledon Village.

Walking and cycling.  Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park

Once on Wimbledon Common, which starts at Wimbledon Village, you can walk or cycle through the Common all the way to Richmond crossing only one road (but on a footbridge) to Richmond Park and it will take you about three hours. If you don’t fancy walking or cycling back you can get the train or 493 bus back to Wimbledon centre.  The Common is 1,149 acres of open space with a 200 year old Windmill, housing a small museum.   And Richmond Park is 2,500 acres that you are free in which to roam.

…the common and the the museum…

It houses the Isabella Plantation – a 40 acre woodland garden – Pembroke Lodge and the Royal Ballet school and is home for 650 roaming Red and Fallow deer. Dog walkers are there in force at any time but remember the deer particularly in the rutting season and give them a wide berth.  A large part of this route is known as Tibbet’s Ride.

Cycle Hire in London

There are 750 Santander red docking stations throughout London supplying 11,500 bikes. The nearest to Wimbledon is four Underground stops away at Putney Bridge station.  There is also an independent specialist, Park Cycles, in Richmond Park.

1920's ladies match

but tennis is what Wimbledon will always been known for

Shopping

Opposite the mainline station is a shopping centre and you’ll never believe its name. It is the Centre Court Shopping Centre and whilst this is a fairly typically shopping centre, the attraction of Wimbledon Village and its cafe culture is what brings Londoners into Wimbledon for Sunday brunches and a chance to sit outside with a coffee or dine at one of the dozens of restaurants that the area boasts.

Yes, there is a lot to see and do in Wimbledon and that is why this has been a popular spot for visitors. But wherever you go in the world, the name “Wimbledon” means just one thing to people – tennis!

Images and story © Anthony Lydekker

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