Zoe, SLAP and WASSPS in England!
Zoe was happy to see us, and we were very happy to see her too. For a bit more than a fortnight (two weeks), we petted, snuggled and cared for this sweet 14 year old kitty for the second time in less than a year in the lovely town of Teddington, just west of London, England.
In case you don't already know, we pet sit for people around the world. It's one of the ways that we have been able to afford living a full time nomadic lifestyle for over four years. We sit for well behaved pets, free of charge, in exchange for lovely places to stay.
It's a win, win, win situation. Pet owners don't have to pay for having great care taken of their homes, as well as their pets. We stay in awesome places for free, and we have sweet pets to love. The cats and dogs and birds, and worms are able to stay stay home (yes worms... see my blog post https://www.coffeys2go.com/post/worms-more-worms), The less desirable alternatives would be short visits, or worse yet being put in to a kennel or cattery or
birdery (?) What do you call a kennel for birds anyway? And is there such a thing as a "wormel" or "wormery"?
If you're interested in having a free pet sitter or becoming one, and you would like a 25% discount off of the annual fee, go to https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/xHabPOGQ. *Disclaimer - if you join with this link, we get two free months.
In between all the petting and purring of Zoe, we just had to play a bit of pickleball. If you are visiting England and looking for pickleball games, there are multiple groups to play with. The best place to find the most current and correct information is on the Pickleball England website https://www.pickleballengland.org/club-locator/. Places2Play is a bit trickier in the UK - be sure to use "GBR" in the search function. A bit more intuitive route is to use the map feature and zoom in on the area of interest in the UK .
The South London Area Pickleball (SLAP) group welcomed us warmly in two different locations again. Last time we were here, they made us honorary members. In addition to Zoe, the members of this club were a main reason we wanted to return.
SLAP plays in two different locations, two days a week each, giving four options weekly to play. Rather than putting information regarding specific information here, I'll direct you to their website. https://www.slap.club/. Because most games are played indoor on badminton courts that have to be rented for specific times, it is necessary to ask if you can join in a session rather than just showing up. The organizers limit the number of participants so that everyone gets to play rather than just sitting around twiddling thumbs. If you contact them to arrange to play, they can tell you the current cost as well. They are an amazing and friendly club who really try to make sure visitors get to play and feel part of the group.
There are four multi-purpose courts at each location where they play, and each session seems to be full (unless a tournament is going on somewhere). One place is inside a school called Richard Challoner, and the other is at the very nice Tadworth Leisure Centre. That is pronounced "lez-ure" - rhymes with "pleasure" in British English, rather than "leeze-ure" which rhymes with seizure in US English). Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe, to-may-toe, to-mah-toe. And yes, they spell it "centre", but rather than correcting my spell check every time, you'll find me spelling it "center".
We were so keen to play with the group, and no time is wasted at all in getting on the courts. That resulted in me neglecting to take any photos - WHAT???? So due to my negligence, I pilfered (with permission of course) their Facebook cover photo. There were many of the same people this time that there were 9 moths ago, but we missed a couple from before and met some new folks this time.
Court limitations and growing pains have resulted in new groups spinning off in the London area. Every club has its own personality and members' needs and styles can vary considerably. As a result of the new clubs being formed and new locations being found to play, there is a natural growth of the sport in general. It also creates opportunity for more competition which is also good for the pickleball community.
We were very happy to meet and play with one of those new groups a couple of times. They call themselves WASSPS. That stands for West and South Surrey Pickle Ballers. It's easy to contact them through their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thewassps/ . Some of them also showed up to play with the Wimbledon group at Shrewsbury House in Surbiton.
For an excellent description of how pickleball works in England, Roberto Donati wrote an insightful blog. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Mexico at Tres Palapas, and not only is he a great player and instructor, it turns out that Roberto is an excellent writer. Take a look at https://www.pickleballengland.org/english-pickleball-from-a-us-pickleball-pro/ to read a blog post he wrote after visiting England for a couple of weeks.
In the US, we are truly fortunate to have so many places where we can play pickleball for free, or for a very small fee. The rate at which public tennis courts are being converted to pickleball (either with lines just for pickleball or multipurpose lines) is quite astounding. The infrastructure of public parks that are free in the States for anyone to use is a resource not available in many other countries. Of course our taxes pay for them, but cities and neighborhoods take care of the continued maintenance, and people of all economic levels have opportunities to play.
Leisure Centers in England are wonderful facilities. They all seem to be clean, well lit, and staffed by friendly, polite Brits. The courts are multipurpose for many sports such as basketball, badminton, indoor cricket and soccer, walking netball, kids gymnastics, short tennis, and any other sport that will fit inside. The weather in England, for a large part of the year, creates a large demand for such options.
While we certainly cannot claim to have seen all the types of sport facilities, we have tried, with no success to find free places to play. To be able to continue the nomadic lifestyle we enjoy, we have to watch our pennies. It is quite expensive to play pickleball in England, ranging from £ 7 - £11 ($8.50 - $13.30) for an hour, which is rather expensive when it is only for two of us. At some facilities, they charge per person rather than per hour which generally has been about £4 - £5 per person per hour.
Most of the leisure centers in England and Wales are run by county commissions, although some have hired out the responsibilities to management companies. There may be multiple centers in one county but they each have their own individual policies and prices, dependent on the facilities available (such as expensive to maintain pools).
If you are part of a group, there might be some sort of discount for having regular fixed hours, but we were told by the WASSPS that their rates were about to go up 20%, and at the fixed rate members are paying, it wasn't even covering the current cost. The leisure centers apparently need to be self supporting. We did actually go to one place that had off-peak hours - a great idea to try to fill those courts with pensioners (retirees) who aren't working during the day. Most of the people we have been playing with though, still work and need the evening time slots.
Outside of pickleball, we have been enjoying the sights and activities around our place in Teddington which is just west of London. If you're interested in travel blogs, I'll be writing one more geared towards that, and you can find it at www.coffeys2go.com .
Just a taste of my other perspective of the area for you though. Teddington Lock is a complex of three locks and a weir on a beautifully scenic part of the River Thames. It was first built in 1810.
Thanks so much to all you Brits who have made our first couple of weeks in England so much fun! You all rock! It will be great to see you all again at the English Open tournament in Nottingham!
Next stop... Devon!