Overlooking the River Thames in Chiswick, Dukes Meadows is the perfect venue for sports enthusiasts – whatever the age
It’s rather apt that I am sitting in the lounge area of Dukes Meadows watching British tennis star Andy Murray taking on home favourite Nick Kyrgios in the quarter finals of the Australian Open. After all, this Chiswick hotspot is home to an LTA High Performance Centre that is hard at work developing our next world beater.
What I didn’t realise is there’s so much more to the venue than tennis, and that our little ones also pay a key role in what they offer. My guided tour taps into the sportsman within me: from the nine hole, par three golf course and 50 bay floodlit driving range, to the indoor and outdoor floodlit tennis courts, not to mention the rather fab ‘Skiplex’ ski slope, where you can learn the technique without bruising the entire lower half of your body (as I found to my cost at 13 years of age).
Sitting down with Dukes Meadows’ General Manager, Kathryn Evans, my first question is about how good you need to be to take advantage of the facilities here. ‘You can start at any level,’ she insists. ‘The golf here isn’t stuffy in the slightest. For us, it’s about breaking down barriers and making sport accessible to all. Dukes Meadows is one of the biggest sporting hubs around, but we are a hidden gem.’
They are certainly doing their bit for all the family to ensure those that haven’t unearthed it have no reason not to rectify that. Their Junior Programmes are available all year round for children from the age of five to tackle tennis or golf, and their holiday sports camps offer a chance to combine the two. It’s not just here, either. ‘We provide a lot of tennis coaching at various schools,’ Kathryn adds. ‘From Monday to Friday we send out some top coaches into schools to offer more children the chance to enjoy the programme. There’s the perception that tennis is an elitist sport – but it’s not at all.’
As well as sporting proficiency, what else do children get out of the programmes held by Dukes Meadows? ‘They are learning social skills,’ Kathryn says. ‘We get more out of a session when they are working with another player, and they create good friendships too. It’s not necessarily about being good – it’s about having fun and learning social skills.’
Dukes Meadows is doing its bit for children and their parents – our good friends at Laidlaw Education also hold tutoring sessions at the venue – and you really get the sense that they are doing everything they can to make sure the welcome is warm (there is no membership fee, meaning it’s a pay as you play system). As Andy Murray smashes the winning shot, Kathryn sums up why their approach is so important: ‘The children are the future of tennis.’
Words: Mark Kebble
Dan Mason Drive W4 2SH; 020 8994 3314; dukesmeadows.com