When you drive to Wimbledon in south-west London you will notice that it has an amazing amount of green space for a London borough. The area known as Wimbledon Village also manages to retain a village atmosphere. It is all a breath of fresh air in a busy city.
Anyone for Tennis?
Wimbledon is best-known around the world for its tennis championships. They are held every year in the first two weeks of July at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It has been going since 1877. It has remained traditional, played on grass and without anything much by way of advertising visible.
For the rest of the year, it is a tennis club. Fans of the sport can enjoy the museum which includes a 16th century rule book, antique rackets and gear worn by champions. A ticket to the museum also includes a tour of the grounds and the BBC studio.
Wimbledon Park lies alongside the All England Club. It was once attached to Wimbledon Manor House. The grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown in the Eighteenth Century to include a lake which is the largest in South London. The lake is now used for water sports. The park also has a café and an 18-hole golf club.
Wimbledon Village is a great place to go shopping. Most of the shops are period buildings that have retained their character. There are antiques, chic clothes, quality cookware and much more. The area also has great pubs, restaurants and cafés where you can eat out after making your purchases.
New Wimbledon Theatre
New Wimbledon Theatre has a splendid, gilded statue of the goddess Laetitia on its dome. This was taken off during World War II in case it was used as a mark by bombers! It is back in place now. The theatre can hold an audience of 1,670. It is used for touring plays, stand-up comics, tribute bands and the occasional musical fresh from the West End.
The Polka Theatre
Wimbledon also has a theatre that was specially designed for children. The Polka Theatre opened in 1979 on Broadway. The main auditorium holds 300 and there is a smaller room for up to 70 toddlers or babies. The Polka hosts plays as well as workshops and storytelling.
Wimbledon’s own arthouse cinema is tucked away above the HMV store close to the station. It plays mainly indie and foreign movies. There are three screens and comfortable seating. Films are often introduced by directors or critics and there can be question and answer sessions. The bar serves wine and food so this could be the perfect night out for a movie buff.
Cannizaro Park is another beautiful green space in this lush suburb. It was once the grounds of a country house and contains many lovely areas of exotic trees. There is an Italian Garden, a Sunken Garden, a Water Garden, a Mediterranean Garden and an Azalea Dell.
Wimbledon Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday morning, the Wimbledon’s Farmer’s Market sells wonderful produce at Wimbledon Park Primary School. They are all organic producers. Local fruits and vegetables include strawberries, cherries, apples, plums, asparagus, wild garlic, etcetera. Whatever is in season. They also sell juices, jams, honey, game, meat and poultry. And all year round there are delightful bunches of cut flowers.
The largest green space is of course Wimbledon Common. It has been a protected recreational space reserved for the public for the last 150 years and cannot be built upon. It contains areas of heathland and bog and mixed woodland. There are many preserved flora and fauna. It is a perfect spot for taking a walk or watching birds or wildlife. You might be lucky and see stag beetles, sparrowhawks or tawny owls.
Wimbledon Village Stables
Wimbledon Village Stables is the oldest recorded stables in England. Non-members can take lessons there. Beginners start on a horse-simulator while more experienced riders are allowed out on the parkland, usually in groups.
Wimbledon Common contains an attractive windmill the base of which is an octagonal house. An episode of Dr Who was once filmed there. Baden-Powell lived there for a while and wrote his Scouting for Boys there. The mill houses a museum these days. Not many people know that the mill marks the boundary between Wimbledon Common and the next open space, Putney Heath.
The first Thai temple to be built in Britain, Wat Buddhapadipa, can be found a couple of streets away from the common. In 1976 it moved to its current site. There are monks and nuns living there but everyone is welcome to visit. It is an unusual building with frescoes inside and a black bronze buddha as well as a golden one brought from Bangkok’s Grand Palace. The temple is set in woodlands alongside a lake and a stream. It is an oasis of peace.