4 ways to get your Wimbledon fix this summer
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2020 marks the first year that the Wimbledon Championships has been cancelled since World War II in 1945. It’s also the first year since 1877 that the tournament has not been played during peacetime.
Normally, Wimbledon runs for two weeks from late June to early July in SW19 in London, culminating in the men’s finals on the last day, drawing millions of spectators. So many iconic tennis moments have gone down in Wimbledon history including John McEnroe’s epic temper tantrums, the glory of the Williams sisters and, of course, the U.K.’s beloved Andy Murray winning twice — the first time in 2013, when he was the first British champ since Fred Perry in 1936.
Naturally, Wimbledon is mainly about tennis, but there are other aspects of this quintessentially British competition that are almost as important. Think Pimm’s, strawberries and cream, Champagne, Robinsons squash, the Centre Court ballot and, of course, a bit of celeb spotting. Remember when Lewis Hamilton was turned away from the Royal Box for not dressing smartly enough?
So since we can’t watch or attend Wimbledon in real life this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve come up with some other ways to stay on the ball and get your racket fix.
1. Stay in a beautiful English country hotel with tennis courts
Why not combine a fabulous countryside staycation with a spot of tennis? Work off all that strawberries and cream and Pimm’s by perfecting your serve. Tennis is also a great way to exercise while still observing social distancing rules, so combining domestic travel with that is win-win. Here are two of our favourites.
Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire
Stoke Park is a sprawling hotel, country club and spa with a distinguished tennis history. The courts are set within and around the £20 million spa and pavilion, and the facilities are said to be amongst the finest in the country, with four floodlit artificial clay courts, three indoor carpet courts and six Wimbledon specification grass courts — you’ll feel like a pro. Stoke Park is also home to The Boodles, a pre-Wimbledon event that sees the sport’s elite warming up for the main event. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have both limbered up here. As well as that, there’s a sumptuous pool and golf course and the rooms and suites are five-star. Rates start at about £240 per night and tennis lessons are £50 per hour. The courts are free of charge for guests.
How to get there: The nearest airport is Heathrow and the nearest train stations are Slough or Gerrards Cross.
St Michaels Resort, Cornwall
You won’t find outdoor tennis courts with a more breathtaking view than this. Located near Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, if your serve is too mighty, your ball will end up in the sea. St Michaels has four tennis courts and offers complimentary lessons with a qualified LTA coach. The resort’s splendid spa also features the U.K..’s first Cornish sea salt steam room, an outdoor Swedish hot tub and barrel sauna and a hydro pool. Needless to say, the views over the Atlantic are magnificent. Rates start at about £108 per night.
How to get there: The nearest airport is Newquay (NQY) and the nearest mainline train station is Truro.
2. Find the perfect strawberries and cream
Strawberries are grown all over the U.K., so there is an abundance of farms you can visit to pick your own. And surely it’s more satisfying eating ones you’ve sweated over?
McLauchlans of Boxted fruit farm — Colchester, Essex
Not far from London, this lovely fruit farm is open now and handily, it has already implemented social distancing measures to keep all its patrons safe. So pluck them to your heart’s content to take away for the ultimate strawberries and cream. The farm will direct you to the crops that are best on the day you visit. One kilo of strawberries will give eight small portions (there are usually 50 strawberries to the kilo), strawberries will last a lot longer with the hod (green leafy bit) still in and the best fruit is usually at the furthest corner of a patch of strawberries. Though entrance is free — you just pay for your strawberries at the end — you do need to book a ticket.
Nearby Colchester is a historic and thriving market town, so a great place to visit after or if you want to stay the night. There’s lots to see and do, including Roman ruins and a Norman castle. Stay at GreyFriars, an elegant Georgian hotel in the city centre. Rooms start at about £130 per night.
How to get there: The nearest airport is Stansted (STN) and the nearest station is Colchester.
3. Kick back with the perfect Pimm’s
Pimm’s is synonymous with Wimbledon — it’s the perfect refreshing tipple to drink in the sun as you watch your favourite tennis star. It originated in Newnham in Kent and is the creation of local farmer’s son, James Pimm. If you want to spend some time at Pimm’s source, the village of Newnham is charming but small, so you might find more to amuse yourself nearby.
Faversham is an ancient market town and located on a winding creek. Faversham was the centre of the nation’s explosives industry for 400 years, so you can visit the 18th-century gunpowder mills. For another history fix head to the Maison Dieu, a 13th-century building that’s the remains of a medieval hospital that provided overnight accommodation for Canterbury pilgrims and royalty on their way to and from the continent. To cool down, try Faversham Pools, which has been voted one of the best lidos in the U.K.
But most importantly, of course, who serves the tastiest Pimm’s? Try the Albion Taverna, on the banks of the Faversham Creek. This classically Kent weather-boarded old pub is very welcoming, and you can enjoy your drinks on its pleasant front patio. We recommend staying at the Sun Inn, a 14th-century property with loads of original features. Rooms start at about £100 per night.
How to get there: The nearest airport is Southend (SEN) and the nearest train station is Faversham.
4. Book a Wimbledon tour
There’s nothing quite like the roar of the crowd, but you can still experience Wimbledon by doing a tour of the grounds and visiting the museum. You’ll be able to learn about the history and traditions of tennis, see the championships trophies, check out tennis fashions from the Victorian period, test your skills on the BATAK wall and learn about how the sport has developed since 1877. And yes, you’ll be able to walk into Centre Court as part of the tour and even learn how the grass is kept so pristine. Tours are not currently operating but you can book one for the future. Tickets are £25.
Due to the restrictions that the coronavirus pandemic has incurred, all major sporting events — even the Olympics in Japan — have been postponed. Wimbledon is an event that everyone looks forward to every year, and not just tennis fans. So while we’ve had to give it a swerve this year, here are some fun ways to get your game on till 2021. Game, set, match!
Featured photo by meteo021/Getty Images