Continuing our journey around the capital's sporting opportunities, alphabetically.
This is a racquet sport and described as a shorter format of tennis, with essences of squash thrown in. It is the most played sport in Spain and Argentina and, according to many sources, the fastest growing sport in the world. Its arrival in the UK is relatively recent and London is home to the UK’s largest Padel club, unsurprisingly called Padel Club London and located in Canary Wharf. Four courts are available and it is possible to hire the necessary equipment. Padel is set for explosion in the UK in the next few years (you heard it here first) and the Padel England Association offers a useful Padel club finder with courts springing up left, right and centre such as at the Harbour Club Chelsea.
This has simply got to be one of the best sports ever invented, combining laughter and extreme pain with the objective of shooting one another with balls of paint travelling at speeds of well over 100mph. Naturally, finding suitable space for paintballing in inner London is virtually impossible; however, there is one fantastic exception, Bunker 51 in North Greenwich. This is a themed, decommissioned Cold War Nuclear bunker with two paintball playing fields where you have to battle to save the world from impending disaster. How can it get any better than that? Otherwise you will need to head out to London’s suburbs to find a suitable paintballing space. Delta Force is arguably the best with two paintball centres located within the M25 at Orpington and Upminster. These offer astonishingly innovative landscapes with scenarios such as ‘D-Day Landing’, ‘Flight DF777 – Jet Hijack’ and ‘Afghan Village’.
Petanque is France’s answer to bowls and is also known as ‘Boules’. It is particularly popular in the South of France and can be played anywhere where there is a patch of grass. It was covered in Where to Play Sport Part B; however, just to recap, the London Petanque Association has a list of all the petanque clubs operating in London parks and Jaques London sells exquisite petanque sets.
Pilates is an extremely trendy system of exercises, which use special equipment to help improve your flexibility, posture, physical strength and mental wellbeing. It should not be confused with yoga; however, the well-being and physical benefits certainly overlap for both of these fitness forms. London has a plethora of Pilates facilities usually found at specialist Pilates studios, general wellness centres and larger gym chains. Popular picks include Ten Pilates with locations in Notting Hill, Chiswick, St James’s and Hatton Garden, and Nuffield Health gyms, which has clubs all over London. Other notable Pilates centres include Shoreditch Pilates, Salt Pilates, Tempo Pilates, New York Pilates and Hoxton Square Pilates. Open Play also provides a list of London Pilates centres with the relevant contact details.
Pitch and Putt (Golf)
Conventional golf courses tend to be reserved for members or require considerable time and money to play. This is why pitch and putt golf courses exist, as you get the golfing experience but the added bonuses of not having to walk very far, wear silly trousers and be remotely talented. Dukes Meadows in Chiswick, Centenary Park in Harrow and Hangar Hill Park are all excellent example of nine hole pitch and putt golf courses, and you can just pay and play with club and ball hire available. Golf in London also has a list of other London pitch and putt golf courses. However, there has been an increasing trend for these courses making way for housing so it is worth ringing in advance to check that your chosen pitch and putt course has not closed!
Often referred to as the “Sport of Kings” and popular among the royals and upper echelons of UK society, polo is a combination of hockey/croquet played on horseback. The object is to score goals against an opposing team made of up four players over the course of two hours. It requires considerable space (300 yards by 160 yards) and pitches in London are therefore rare. However, Ham Polo Club near Richmond Park is the last remaining polo club in Greater London. It offers beginners lessons from £95 and learn-to-play days for corporates. Outside of London, Ascot Park Polo Club have ‘learn to play polo days’ and ‘discover polo’ lessons, only 40 minutes from London. If you just want to watch polo, pose in your aviators and drink Pimms, head to Mint Polo in the Park which takes place in June every year at Hurlingham Park near Parsons Green.
Often conventional yoga methods such as Hatha and Iyengar can focus on breathing techniques that avid fitness enthusiasts might find a bit wishy-washy. Power Yoga is the answer to this. It offers a more dynamic form of yoga based on Ashtanga Yoga where you receive the typical flexibility and posture benefits but also work up a sweat due to its fast flowing, aerobic style. The Power Yoga Company in Parsons Green labels itself as London’s first power yoga studios and offers a suitable range of classes. Yoga London also is a good source for power yoga class information and centres.
Parkour is a method of physical training where the goal is to overcome both physical and mental obstacles. It originated in the forests of France, where it was known as ‘Le Parkour’ or ‘PK’ and participants, known as ‘traceurs,’ would imagine they were running for their lives. Nowadays, it usually involves leaping around urban landscapes, buildings, park benches, cars, dustbins or whatever you can get your hands on. Southfields-based Parkour Generations has good-value classes catering to anyone from complete beginners to advanced enthusiasts. Furthermore, it offers a free class on the last Sunday of every month. Good spots for Parkour include London’s Southbank and Vauxhall Walls with a variety of structures to negotiate. Parkour Generations also has a Parkour Hotspots Map to help you find your ideal location.
By Sam Parton
Part A: Aerobics, Aikido, Archery, Athletics, Aussie Rules Football
Part B: Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bikram Yoga, Boules, Bowls, Boxing
Part C: Canoeing, Climbing, Cricket, Croquet, Curling, Cycling
Part D: Dance, Darts, Disc Golf, Diving, Dodgeball, Dragon Boat Racing
Part E: Equestrian, English Billiards, Eight-a-side Football, Endurance Running, Extreme Sports
Part F: Fives, Football, Fencing, Frisbee
Part G: Gaelic Football, Golf, Go-Karting, Goalball, Gridiron
Part H: Handball, Hang Gliding, Hatha Yoga, Hiking, Hockey, Hula Hooping and Hurling
Part I: Ice Climbing, Ice Hockey, Indoor Cricket, Indoor Football, Inline Skating, and Iyengar Yoga.
Part J: Jazz Dancing, Jianzi, Jitsu, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Jogging, Jorkyball
Part K: Karate, Kiyaking, Kickboxing, Kite Surfing, Korfball, Kung Fu
Part L: Lacrosse, Land Yachting, Laser Tag, Lawn Bowling, Lawn Tennis, Lethwei