For several years I have been lucky enough to host our Red Letter Days experience at Wimbledon, and I never tire of it.
Wimbledon – as a venue and a great sporting event – really can make all of us proud to be British, and everything about this experience shouts quality and a thorough respect for upholding tradition.
The 2013 Championship was certainly different, with the loss of so many big names in the early days, the controversial slips on the grass, Marion Bartoli, an endearing new ladies champion, and of course the nation’s joy at the success of Andy Murray winning the Gentlemen’s Singles title yesterday – congratulations to him!
It was my very first year visiting the All England Club during the championship, the buzz of actually being there in the crowds during this much loved sporting event cannot be adequately described, it is simply magic.
What I can describe is our own Red Letter Days Wimbledon experience. It begins in the Wingfield Cafe where RLD have a private area set out and on arrival guests are treated to tea, coffee and biscuits by cafe managing staff, who look after our catering needs. I introduce myself and our blue badge guide to everyone before we set off for the morning’s tour, starting at the famous Fred Perry statue.
The next couple of hours are spent being led round this amazing place, seeing familiar (and not so familiar) sights. The blue badge guides have fantastic knowledge, insider stories, tips and bags of enthusiasm; no two tours are ever the same.
It varies but we usually visit the boards detailing all the matches from the last championship, the outside courts including Court no.18 where that famous longest match in history (over 11 hours) took place, Court no.1, the Aorangi Terrace where the big screen is located (better known as Henman Hill or more topically Murray Mound), with the long water lilly pond filled full of Koi carp along the top of the hill.
In the Millennium Building we pass through reception where the players arrive (and order their taxis to leave when they have lost!), collect their prize money and we even enter the press room where players are interviewed – one of the favourite photo opportunities.
We conclude our tour sitting inside Centre Court, the most famous tennis court in the world, with its Royal Box, £100 million retractable roof added in 2009 and quotation above the players’ entrance of an extract from the poem by Rudyard Kipling: ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster / And treat those two imposters just the same’.
We amble back towards the cafe for lunch along the tunnel with its many posters detailing each year of the championships and the stars who shined – another favoured place of our guests who like to take pictures here from the year they were born.
We chat about the tour over a lunch of soup, fresh salmon or veg quiche with potato and green salad and a dessert of lemon tart followed by tea or coffee (*please be aware, the menu is subject to change). Next a senior member of staff from the Museum, comes to introduce us to the award-winning space housing so many tennis treasures. The museum includes a small cinema which shows a short but stunning film in 3D, don’t miss it. With free audio headsets, guests are free to spend as long as they like taking in exhibits in this award-winning, interactive museum – not forgetting the originals of both singles trophies!
Back at the Wingfield Cafe, strawberries with cream and champagne are prepared ready for the final part of the experience. As visitors return (often with bags of goods bought from the shop), I give out a certificate to each guest and hope you will agree, it’s a relaxed and leisurely end to a very popular day.
What are your experiences of Wimbledon? Check out our gifts for sports fans, offering the experience to explore iconic stadium grounds.