A secluded sanctuary in South West London

It was a bright, crisp, post-Christmas Sunday, so to work off some of those duck-fat potatoes I hopped on my bike and set off for Wimbledon.

Not in search of Wombles, a windmill, or the thwack of tennis balls, but to a graceful Thai enclave tucked between Wimbledon’s muscular millionaire mansions and two golf clubs.

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Wat Buddhapadipa was the first Buddhist temple in the UK when it opened in Richmond in 1965 and moved to its current location in leafy Wimbledon in 1976. The gleaming white, red and gold Thai-style Uposatha Hall sits in a clearing of pine trees next to an ornamental lake and a house where resident Dhammaduta monks live.

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A meditation retreat was taking place so it wasn’t possible to enter the main temple, so I wandered around the grounds instead, reading the vignettes of Buddhist teachings inscribed into wooden plaques, and stopping at the little ornaments and statues dotted around between the trees.

 

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Ordinarily, visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and temple respectfully, but there are also meditation classes and retreats open to all, as well as retreats for teenage boys hoping to become novice monks, celebrations for Songkran (Thai new year) and memorials for loved ones who have passed away.

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