The quiet, affluent London suburb of Wimbledon—located approximately 13 kilometres southwest of Buckingham Palace—is best known for the world’s oldest tennis tournament of the same name, which takes place at Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in June and July. But there’s so much more to this village-like community than its world-famous tennis competition, so it’s well worth sticking around after the chalk dust settles.
Wimbledon and Putney Commons covers 1,140 acres of open land with a mix of heath, woodland, grassland, streams and ponds and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation. Wander the vast landscape and stop in at the Commons’ Wimbledon Windmill, which operated for 47 years before it was converted into a residential dwelling and, later, a museum. Learn about local history, windmills, milling and the Commons’ most famous residents, the Wombles—fictional, fuzzy creatures with pointy snouts that help keep the Commons garbage-free.
Operating as a riding school for just over 100 years, Wimbledon Village Stables are possibly the oldest riding stables in England. Settle into the saddle, push the button at the equestrian traffic light outside the stables to turn the red horse-shaped light green, then ride alongside city traffic and red double-decker buses before trotting into the Commons to ride through its tree-lined trails. Enthusiastic novice and experienced riders can try out the Equine Simulator, a perfectly trained mechanical horse, or opt for an Equicise class—fitness, yoga and Pilates classes tailored toward both riders and non-riders.
The Wimbledon Village neighbourhood offers a relaxed place to browse boutique and designer stores such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Max Mara, Cath Kidston and Eileen Fisher. Plus, you can pick up everything you need for a perfect picnic at high-end deli Bayley & Sage. Fill a basket with Scandinavian sourdough or Italian ciabatta breads and choose from an eclectic mix of cheeses, melt-in-your-mouth charcuterie and rich pâtés, then head to the Commons and arrange your picnic spread on a blanket under the shade of an old horse chestnut tree. Don’t forget to pack some strawberries and cream for dessert.
Budget-conscious travellers will appreciate the lineup at New Wimbledon Theatre, which, for more than 100 years, has been hosting plays, musicals, operas and ballets destined for—or returning from—their run in Central London’s West End. Decorated in both Georgian and Italian renaissance styles, this beautiful Edwardian theatre seats 1,600 people over three tiers and features a golden statue of the Roman Goddess of Gaiety, Laetitia, atop its exterior dome.
Nearby the Commons, the family-run pub Crooked Billet has a country feel and is the perfect spot for a bite to eat. Dine on offerings like Cumberland sausage with creamy mashed potatoes and gravy during the week, or reserve a spot on Sunday for 21-day aged Aberdeen Angus strip loin or beef, lemon and thyme chicken, a spring organic leg of lamb or a selection of all three served up with crispy roast potatoes, root veggies and homemade Yorkshire puddings. After, head outside to relax in one of the pub’s deckchairs—with a jug of Pimm’s, naturally.
Take a Narrowboat Trip Along England’s Canals
In this photo essay, WestJet Magazine's Design Director Steve Collins recounts his recent trip home to explore the tranquil waters of England’s canals, about two and a half hours from London. He and his wife cruise The Stourport Ring, a 119-km loop, making stops along the way.