Dinking in Devon, UK
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
For the sake of completeness of a record of places to play pickleball in Southwest England, this post will be brief but hopeful. In Devon and Cornwall there is currently a woeful lack of pickleball players. But what the area lacks in pickleball, it makes up for in sheer beauty and history.
We were so fortunate to return to Teddington, England and pet sit for people who offered us time at their beautiful vacation home in Devon. When people asked where we were headed next on our journey and we said the name "Devon", the response was always along the lines of "Ooohhhh, Devon! You're going to love it there!" It was usually said in that soft longing tone of voice that conveys a special place or feeling.
Devon seemed to us to be a well kept British secret. We never heard a single American accent, or any other non-British accent for that matter, for the entire 8 days we were there. I don't want to start an invasion of the place, but non-UK tourists have been missing out. We went to quite a number of the most famous tourist attractions and we seemed to be the unique foreigners there.
Pickleball hasn't made it to this neck of the woods quite yet (there's my Texas accent coming out) . We thought we had a lead on a small group that was supposed to have started playing, but alas, when I got in touch with one of the people, I was told that they really hadn't gotten things going.
Not to be deterred, we found a local leisure center in the small town of Okehampton, and set up the net which our friends Karen and Chris had loaned us. So advice for any of you traveling with your paddles and a ball, you can always rent a badminton court, adjust their net and play to your hearts content. Ignore the fact that the non-volley line is seven inches too short, and dink on. While you're at it, explain the game to someone there. Everywhere we went to play, people were happy to have us explain the game and at least a couple of people would come to watch and ask for the rules.
There is an amazing organization called the The National Trust. Their mission is very much like that of the National Park system and the Historical Society in the US, combined. They work diligently to protect lands and special places for future generations. The fees charged to visit these places is reasonable to support maintaining these treasures. It can get costly however if you want to visit multiple locations. Here are some great options to consider.
If you're living in the US and considering visiting the UK, and you have any interest in beautiful places and history, you need to know about another organization called The
Royal Oak Foundation. Membership to it gives unlimited entry to over 350 properties of the National Trust of England Wales & Northern Ireland as well as events in the US and reciprocal agreements in other countries as well. https://www.royal-oak.org/ If you are at all interested in seeing some of the most beautiful castles, homes, gardens and historical places, this is the deal for you.
If you're only going to be in the UK for a short period of time, here's another great tip. We hadn't yet found out about the Royal Oak Foundation before this trip, but we did find out about The National Trust Touring Pass. It is available to anyone who lives outside of the UK. You can purchase a one or two week pass which gives access to as many of the properties as you can see in that period of time. Check it out here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/touring-pass .
When we weren't on the courts, drilling and playing skinny singles, we were visiting amazing places like Coleton Fishacre, Lanhydrock, Castle Drogo, Finch Foundry (which is really a forge) in Sticklepath (just love that name), Lydford Gorge and many others.
We went in to the university town of Exeter for a couple of nights. Beautiful place, and while there we, of course, went to a new leisure center. There we met a bunch of new enthusiastic soft tennis players. They all wanted to know about pickleball, so of course we gave impromptu lessons. The management at the center is keen to get nets and paddles now. That's how this game rolls - one taste and people are hooked! I had some fun with them teaching me a bit of soft tennis, but these competitive ladies are looking for something with a bit more pop I think!
Here's another option if you can't get a game of pickleball going. Fascinating I'm sure, and certainly requiring skill, but for me, it would be a bit like watching paint dry compared to whacking a whiffle ball around with a paddle.
In conclusion, think about either the Royal Oak Pass or the The National Trust Touring Pass when you're making your plans to visit England to attend next year's English Open.
The dates have already been set and it will held be the first weekend in July! Rather than celebrating your independence on the 4th of July in the US, the Brits want you back ;-)
Next stop Wales!
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