Local’s View: our guide to Wimbledon
Verdant, villagey and just seven miles from central London, this corner of town is one of Inigo’s top spots. Read on to learn why…
- Eve Delaney
- Stephen James
In 1780, the poet and campaigner Hannah More said of Wimbledon, “I did not think there could have been so beautiful a place within seven miles of London… As un-Londonish as if it were a hundred miles.” The same is still true of this secluded south-west London spot today. With its miraculously unspoilt, chocolate-box village-feel and rambling greenery, it’s the perfect combination of quaint and buzzing.
Though made famous by the world’s most established (and longest running) lawn-tennis tournament, which takes over the town every summer with its own Pimms-y brand of Britishness, Wimbledon is so much more than just a seasonal tourist attraction. Rather, it’s a charming place with something for everyone: from farmers’ markets to galleries, traditional pubs to cutting-edge gastronomic destinations. For a sense of the place, mix the city-village bustle of Hampstead with the bougie-ness of Notting Hill, the brambled woods and fields of rural Sussex with the community feel of a Cotswolds village, and you’ll land somewhere around Wimbledon. It’s no wonder we like it.
With that in mind, here are our top tips for SW19, designed to help you plan the perfect Sunday ramble without having to roam beyond the parameters of the M25.
Wimbledon Windmill Museum, Windmill Rd, London SW19
Though it may sound a bit small-town, the Windmill Museum (set inside – you guessed it – a windmill) is a charming interlude to a bracing walk on Wimbledon Common. The tour will take you back through the various lives of this structure, from a functioning flour mill built in an unorthodox way by a carpenter in 1816, to a home for up to six families.
The actual building itself is quietly gorgeous, built in the Dutch style and set in the heart of the common. On a sunny day the windmill evokes the kind of pastoral bliss that belongs more to a Constable painting than suburban London. On a grey day, the jutting angles might remind you more of a Bernd and Hilla Becher series. Either way it’s quite lovely.
St. Mary’s church, 30 St Mary’s Rd, London SW19
Originally constructed in wood in the 11th century, St. Mary’s church was rebuilt in the quintessential 19th-century style according to George Gilbert Scott’s designs in 1843. The Gothic Revival architecture and impressive spire create a nice contrast to the gentler dark wooden features that were retained or inspired by the original Medieval building. Talking of contrasts, the whole church – in all its Victorian vastness – cuts an impressive shape against the village, over which it so strikingly presides.
Wat Buddhapadipa, 14 Calonne Rd, London SW19
Just north of Wimbledon Village is the Buddhapadipa temple, the largest Thai Buddhist Temple ever built outside Asia. This small but majestic spectacle of design, religion and serenity is utterly transporting. To add to the calmness, the temple runs frequent meditation classes and talks – though just wandering around the building, taking in the architecture and artwork is activity enough. It’s also surrounded by beautiful gardens, which offer a calm and tranquil oasis and a moment to reflect. Take a moment to talk with the monks, who live on site and often want to chat or guide you.
Bayley and Sage, 60 High St, London SW19
Founded by Jennie Allen in 1997, Bayley and Sage – its first outpost in Wimbledon – was a pioneer in the 1990s wellness trend. Its popularity outlasted any fads, though, and it became the local (and not so local – it’s worth travelling for) one-stop shop for fresh, delicious produce.
Bayley and Sage has a distinctly American feel, like a Wholefoods but with the corporate atmosphere replaced by a distinctly cosy community one. Shelves overflow with more varieties of rice than you knew existed; metal buckets are filled with fresh, bouncy bouquets; tables display exotic fruits in all shades of yellow and pink – not to mention the endless deep green of locally sourced vegetables. At Bayley and Sage, shopping for your supper is an experience rather than a chore.
Wimbledon Books, 40 High St, London SW19
It feels like good, independent bookshops are becoming more of a rarity as time goes on. There are certain things we expect from such outfits: enthusiastic staff who want to talk to you about Virginia Woolf; someone in the corner reading a newspaper; hushed voices and the warm smell of new tomes. Wimbledon Books has those qualities in spades. It’s well-stocked without feeling intimidating, big yet cosy, and it’s right in the middle of the village.
Matchesfashion, 36 High St, London SW19
Somewhere between a gallery and shopping experience, Matchesfashion’s pristine retail space always delivers. Though not many know this, the successful online go-to for the style set, opened first as an IRL shop in Wimbledon (founded by Ruth and Tom Chapman in 1990), giving it that magical newcomer quality.
The geometric marble walls, dramatic central staircase and swishing curved skylight all contribute to the drama of the space, transporting you to a fashion world that feels altogether more international than Wimbledon High Street. It exists for the real fashion fiends, with all the best and newest shoes, accessories and clothes from both established and up-and-coming designers from around the world. It’s great for a casual peruse and will always perform if you’re in a pinch for an event and need something really special.
Dining and drinking
The Hand in Hand, 6 Crooked Billet, London SW19
As if a walk on Wimbledon’s greenery wasn’t lure enough, a pint at the Hand in Hand is the perfect end point for your weekend ramble. Perched just on the edge of the common and occupying a 19th-century cottage, the pub has a distinctly rural energy, with mismatched oak furniture, low ceilings and panelled walls. It has great outdoor seating and refreshing ales, making it a great spot for summer drinks, and it welcomes dogs too. But it’s in the cosy months that this pub really comes to life, with its steamy windows, mulled wine and generous pies – everything you’d want from your local.
Chango Empanadas, 12 High Street, London SW19
Chango Empanadas was born out of founder Bernardo Neville’s desire to bring the authentic taste of Argentina to the UK. If you’re not familiar with an empanada then, firstly, you should probably just go to Chango (there are also outposts in Richmond and Highgate), and secondly, they’re a kind of turnover pastry, filled with a hot and sumptuous centre that’s guaranteed to keep you going back for more. Chango has started selling its empanadas frozen in various flavours too, so you can enjoy this South American treat from the comfort of your (south-west) London home.
601 Queen’s Road, Centre Court Shopping Centre, 4 Queen’s Rd, London SW19
Set on a wraparound roof terrace above the Centre Court shopping centre, this restaurant feels much more urban than much of Wimbledon Village. It’s quite amazing that such a comparatively small locale could host such a variety of worlds. And 601 reflects the demands of this varied neighbourhood: from delicious brunches and casual coffees to evening dates of fine dining with wild cocktails, 601 has something for everyone.
Wimbledon Common and Cannizaro Park
Rickety bridges, babbling brooks, fields of green and bushes of brambles all contribute to the utopic countryside bliss that is Wimbledon Common, the lush heartland of south-west London. It’s hard to express quite how serene this expanse – set on more than 1,000 acres of land – feels. It’s home to lots of varied wildlife too: bats, terrapins and, most famously, the Wombles (to be found underground, overground and Wombling free).
On the south-western edge of the common you’ll find Cannizaro Park. Originally belonging to the Duke of Cannizzaro (the park was named after him, with a slight change of spelling), these ornamental gardens have breathtaking landscape arrangements, exotic flowers, sculptures and water features. It’s the perfect spot for an early evening picnic in midsummer, or for a stroll around with some coloured pencils.
Wimbledon Village Stables, 24 High St, London SW19
If you didn’t already feel like enough like a Jane Austen heroine, picnicking on the lawns of Duke’s ornamental landscape garden with your sketchbook, why not enjoy a ride around the park? These stables are home to some of the best teachers and horses in London, who together can guide you through the wonders the common and nearby Richmond Park by pony. Whether you’re more interested in meandering through the woodlands or trotting across the open plains, the staff at the stables are happy to accommodate any level of experience. They also ride out in all seasons – sun, rain and even snow. So wrap up warm and enjoy the sites from the best seat in the house.
Wimbledon Farmers’ Market, Wimbledon Park Primary School, Havana Rd, London SW19
We all love a farmers’ market, but if you’re looking to graduate towards the top grade of local produce in lovely surroundings, then Wimbledon’s iteration is the place for you. Every Saturday morning, Wimbledon Village welcomes stalls overflowing with farm-fresh veg, homemade treats and local meat and dairy products. Grab a cappuccino and wander, tasting morsels and banking dinner inspiration as you go.
Yes, you can spend a weekend sampling the delights of this sophisticated suburb, but why not consider settling down into a situation more permanent? Move into this apartment in the Victorian Birch Lodge – currently for sale – and the wonders of Wimbledon will be right on your doorstep.
The two-bedroom flat is on Copse Hill, just a few streets away from Cannizaro Park, giving way to the common on one side and the high street on the other – though the lovely shared garden to the rear of the building means you barely need to put your shoes on to get a daily dose of green goodness. We think (eyeing up that glowing golden bathroom) that this is a home for all seasons, however. On wintery nights when you want to leave the outside world behind, the apartment – elegantly revamped with warm, textural materials – has everything you could hope for a cosy night in.
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