Partially concealed from view by trees and the original walls of Caterham Manor’s kitchen gardens, you would be forgiven for not knowing that Caterham & Whyteleafe Tennis Club (C&WTC) is there, in a beautifully secluded area of Manor Park, accessible from Burntwood Lane.
Although it enjoyed long spells of popularity during the last century, membership had dwindled greatly in recent years. So, when much-loved committee member Adrian Nash passed away just before the pandemic, fellow member Judy Blackett decided that the best tribute they could give him would be to revitalise the club in his memory. She, along with the rest of the committee, began looking at ways they could bring it back to life.
Grants from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Whyteleafe Village Council and Cllr Jeffrey Gray (via Surrey County Council’s Your Councillor Community Fund), plus a private donation, helped their project get off the ground. Starting with the courts, which were transformed from dull grey to the vibrant Wimbledon colours of green and purple, the revival of C&WTC began.
Cooper Tennis in the Community was brought on board to facilitate coaching. Peter Cooper, an LTA Level 4 accredited coach, is a well-known face in the district, with over 30 years experience and connections with many local schools. The club now has an extensive junior programme running on weekday afternoons, on Saturdays, and during the holidays, as well as individual and group adult coaching.
It also provides the Youth Start scheme, a low-cost LTA initiative aimed at introducing tennis to children from three to 11. For £34.99, each child gets six group coaching sessions, a racquet and ball set, and a t-shirt, plus a follow-on offer to encourage them to continue playing.
The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is overused, but it fits this little community-focused club perfectly. No matter your age or ability, or whether you are competitive or casual, there is something here for everyone.
The extremely affordable memberships means anybody who wants to play, can. A season’s full adult membership is just £100 (there’s a reduced fee for young adults), while junior memberships range from £1.00 to £28.00, depending on age. Court time is easily booked online (non-members can ‘pay and play’), a variety of fun themed sessions are available every week and there is free parking too.
Club secretary Vibeke Noyé Gibson (Vibi) says the next stage of C&WTC’s evolution will be the installation of a covered area that will provide shelter for players when not on court. They have also submitted a planning application for floodlights so playing time can be extended in the autumn and winter months, but are still waiting to hear back from Tandridge District Council on the outcome.
Peter says: “Although we’re open all year round, there comes a point when our juniors can’t use the courts after school as it gets too dark to see. We don’t want them to lose out during those months: floodlights would enable them to continue the sport they love.”
The committee has put in a lot of hard work over the last couple of years to raise awareness of their club, and it is paying off. There has been a steady rise in memberships and they now have a calendar full of events, including tournaments and social functions.
C&WTC may be small, says Vibi, but it has a big heart: “We are a true community club: where anybody with a love of tennis, even if they have never played before, feels really welcome.“
Visit Caterham & Whyteleafe Tennis Club to find out more about membership and coaching options.