I want to be in the city but not in the city. That was my brief when I moved back to London in 2013, craving the energizing lifeblood of central London with the space and comfort of out of town living. In a city where transport links and proximity to ample green spaces are EVERYTHING, Adventure 176 gets the low-down on SW19 with long term resident and Cape Town expat, Justin Le Roux-Marx.
Q. Justin! How long have you lived in Wimbledon and what first attracted you to the area?
7.5 years! Three South African friends and I started a new house-share together.
We were looking in the South West area (popular with South Africans) and found an absolute gem of house with a lovely garden. The area was also green, clean and had the sense of community that I was looking for – all important factors.
Q. Describe what the area has to offer people who love the outdoors?
Oh wow, Wimbledon is the place to be for outdoorsey people! There are loads of parks dotted around that are great for running, but my favorite is Wimbledon Common. It has a huge wooded area to explore – full of trails and hidden paths – as well as having its own stream, windmill, lake's and member's golf course.
If you really want to test yourself, you can cycle out the other side of the common for a lap of Richmond Park. Altogether, probably a 20km undulating, sometimes muddy ride. YES!
Q. What would you say to Londoners who think Wimbledon is too far out?
Listen, I wouldn’t want to live any further out. It takes me just under an hour door-to-door to get to work, which is about average in London. The transport links here are great though:
District Line (starts in Wimbledon, goes via Paddington or Victoria)
Northern Line (from South Wimbledon Station via Bank or Waterloo)
South Western Railways (around 20 mins to Waterloo)
City Thameslink (from Haydons Road Station, goes via Blackfriars)
I’d say that an hour’s door-to-door commute is a fair trade-off for how amazing the area is!
Q. What’s the best example of community spirit in Wimbledon?
I’d probably say Wimbledon Common Park Run every Saturday at 9am. With an average of 500-ish runners, this well-organized, family-friendly fun run is a reminder of how close-knit the Wimbledon community really is.
The area feels very safe as well - on the whole you get the sense that people look out for each other on your street, which is something you don't always see further in.
Q. How are you fairing during the lock down?
Well, I’ve been very lucky in the sense that I work for a big company that’s taken care of me. I work as an IT support professional for a large bank and, in needing to keep the corporate wheels greased, haven’t lost any income.
On the social front, like everyone else it has been a challenge not seeing friends. I have a wonderful garden though, as well as a hot tub, braai and three international housemates, so that (plus a beer or two) has definitely helped! I couldn’t imagine living alone at times like these.
Thank you Justin! Hopefully we can all enjoy Wimbledon a little more later in the year.
SA notes for Brits:
Never bring salmon to a South African bbq (braai) - it might get thrown over the fence.
A braai to a South African is not just a bbq, it's an institution all of its own and part of the very fabric of what it means to be a Saffer. Social occasion, community meet, life-blood of the neighborhood - even if central London wasn't there I don't think South Africans would be that bothered, as long as they could have a regular braai!
Never go to By the Horns Brewery to watch England vs South Africa in the rugby. You'll be outnumbered and, judging by our recent performances, probably disappointed. Rugby might be the one thing that they love more than a braai...
Photos from atgtickets.com and Adventure 176
Adventure 176 on Wimbledon
+1 | The space:
...is immense! Lots of options here...
We really are spoilt with how large and wild this green space is.
Trail to Richmond Park
Not for the faint hearted but what a ride!
Wandle Trail to the Thames
A less well known but still lovely trail going up to the Thames.
A huge green area complete with a lake, athletics track and tennis courts.
Wimbledon's very own secret garden.
+2 | The tennis of course:
The very identity of the area during the Summer, the tournament is iconic and remarkably accessible (if you don't mind queuing). Any world class sporting tournament that offers a day pass for £25 is a winner in our book!
+3 | The country pubs:
I'm from Somerset originally so probably a little biased towards a country pub, but a country pub in London!? Now we're talking. The following should keep you busy whenever it is safe to do so later in the year:
The Crooked Billet
The Hand in Hand
The Rose & Crown
The Dog and Fox
-1 | It is expensive:
Yup. Average prices for a two-bed terraced house will set you back around £800,000 depending on the area and council tax (Merton) is also high. Renting is comparatively expensive, but do your research and you can always find a deal. Either that or consider slightly further out to Raynes Park / Surbiton - both not far away but generally much cheaper.
-2 | The District Line is slow:
Yup, indeed it is. So why not take the over ground to Clapham Junction, Vauxhall or Waterloo instead? With direct connections to most major hubs, there's always a solution to your travel needs in Wimbledon.
-3 | It doesnt feel like London:
Well, that's a matter of perspective. I think most people would struggle to define London as one thing but in many ways - that's the magic of this city. It's such a diverse, multi-cultural melting-pot of people, attractions and events. When you think of it like that then Wimbledon is a massive part of London. As a major sporting, entertainment and residential area bringing millions of tourist £'s to the city every year, the economic argument alone for Wimbledon is a pretty strong one!
So, if you want a balance between easy access to the city and a less pressured, more active way of life, then you would do well to find somewhere better suited that SW19.
Further links and suggestions
New Wimbledon Theatre
Wimbledon Tennis Museum & Tour
Wimbledon Common Park Run