Touring Wimbledon

So we’re finally getting some better weather. Admittedly it’s still on and off and I veer wildly between being far too hot and needing to pull my trench coat in tightly to keep out the wind, but it’s June and all the signs of summer are here – summer fruits, light evenings and chilled vibes.

June also brings with it Father’s Day (it’s next Sunday, the 18th June, for those of you in the UK – don’t forget!). A time to celebrate fathers and father figures alike. I don’t believe that someone has to be your biological father to be celebrated, it could be a step-father, a grandfather, an uncle, or even your mum (for those whose brilliant mums, like mine, did double duty). You can make as big a deal about it as you like, but in my view, time spent together is always the best thing – making memories. And if you’re struggling for ideas, Tesco Direct have some great ones in the form of experience gift cards for two.

Tesco Gift Experiences cover just about anything you could think of including football stadium tours, afternoon teas (for the less adventurous) and driving experiences, bungee jumping and indoor skydiving (for the daredevils) and they are ideal for special occasion gifting, so would be perfect for Father’s Day.

To see what it was all about, Tesco offered me the chance to try out one of their gift experiences and tempted me with a gift voucher for a tour of Wimbledon for two.

So, with the forecast not predicting rain, we signed up for a tour this weekend and zipped over on the District Line to Wimbledon for a Sunday afternoon tour.

After a few ground rules had been established, the most important being ‘do not walk on, touch or even think about touching the grass’, we started the tour. It’s only a few weeks until Wimbledon starts and the site was clearly being prepared for the tournament. It also meant that everything is ready to look its best. We learnt that the grass is basically a full-year job for the groundsmen. After the tournament finishes the grass is re-seeded and then prepped and primped all year, even through winter, ready for the next year. The grass is cut to a perfect 8mm, the courts rolled and the white lines repainted in the run up to the tournament. It’s a thing of beauty and a labour of love.

What surprised me was that it’s a working tennis club, not just somewhere that hosts the tournament. Apart from a few ‘show courts’ (which are only used during the tournament, including Centre Court and Court 1), the grass courts are used by members.

We were taken into Court 1 and got our first real sense of what it would be to be at Wimbledon. Once you’re in there it’s much more intimate than you might expect from the TV. You feel so close to the court and where the players would be. We also learnt all about the new retractable roof that they’re installing which should be ready in 2019.

After that we headed up to Henman Hill or ‘Murray Mound’ as it’s sometimes now referred to. Holding up to 3000 people when the tournament is on, it’s got some surprisingly nice landscaping. It also has a great view over to the City.

Something we might have otherwise missed was the pony roller which apparently had a fundamental role in the creation of the Wimbledon tournament, leaving Centre Court later we saw its contemporary equivalent.

What surprised me the most was how close together and unassuming a lot of the grass non-show courts were. It reminded me that it’s a real tennis club, with courts to be used, not just admired.

We also got a sneak peek at the bits of Wimbledon that the public don’t get to see, including the interview rooms and the press rooms, the screens in which were coincidentally showing the men’s final of the French Open (well, most of them, some were tuned to Antiques Roadshow).

From there we were shown into Centre Court, the site of so many epic tennis matches.

After the tour (which lasts around 90 minutes) you can visit the Wimbledon museum which chronicles the history of both tennis and Wimbledon. It’s packed with exhibits, interactive features and interesting facts which make you think. Like the fact that Andy Murray is the first British male player to have won Wimbledon wearing shorts, which makes you realise how long ago it was since we had our last male winner!

The trophies are also housed in the museum during the time they aren’t in use during the tournament. They’re beautiful (and heavy, we picked up weights which represented the weight of each).

Rebel? Rule breaker? Grass trampler? Nah, I’m far too much of a goody goody, this astroturf was the closest I got to standing on that hallowed Wimbledon grass.

I highly recommend a tour of Wimbledon for any tennis fan and a voucher for a tour would make a great Father’s Day gift for any tennis mad dad or indeed a fab birthday present for someone. But, if tennis doesn’t tickle their fancy, I’m sure another of Tesco’s gift vouchers will, there’s so much to choose from and something for everyone. Plus, they come in a fancy tin which means no need to wrap them. Bonus. The gift vouchers are available on Tesco Direct.

Our gift voucher was provided on a complimentary basis but the views expressed here are my own unbiased opinions. Thanks Tesco! 

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