The official signs are iris-purple, the Champagne Lanson tent is a dashing pink, the women’s dresses and children’s outfits turn them into a sea of peonies, bluebells and bright honeysuckle. Even the gents stride round in trousers the colour of spearmint, lemon meringue and coral.
This was our second year to attend Chesterton’s Polo in the Park in London as a guest of the event. Once again it turned out to be a brilliant day out for the grown-ups as well as our 12-year-old and her friend.
Polo in the Park is a 3-day tournament at the private Hurlingham Club in Fulham. The game is a modified version with a smaller pitch, a larger inflated ball and teams of three — all to make the game faster and more accessible. And let me tell you, it works.
On the day we visited, the girls stood with other spectators at the edge of the arena, as the riders entered and galloped by, dispensing high fives. Then the match was on — fast and furious action up and down the field with a goal scored almost immediately. I particularly enjoyed the announcer, who providing a running patter or narration, describing the rules and lending insight into the tactics and the players — perfect for people new to the sport.
Here, my top tips for attending Polo in the Park with kids:
1. Take the family on Sunday. Friday is typically the day for corporate entertainment. Saturday is the party day, so expect lots of young revellers. Sunday is especially family-friendly, with special activities before the matches kick off. (See number 2.)
2. Go early for family fun. This year for the second year children’s entertainers Sharky & George staged a Sunday “pitch invasion”, setting up bouncy slides, games and activities on the field before the polo begins. I’m a huge fan of Sharky & George and have hired them for parties & family gatherings. They combine active fun with silliness — waterbomb catapults and 100-a-side tug-of-war — that engages kids like no other entertainers I’ve seen. There is also a Little Hooves Kids Club (Friday and Sunday), where younger kids can play supervised.
3. Arrive hungry. There are loads of food stalls. Our young guests made a beeline for the pizza stand. There was also burgers and fries, quinoa salads and raw slaw, sushi, barbecue, ice cream, and cakes.
4. Enjoy the stylish drinking. There are cocktails by Mahiki, a double-decker Pimm’s bus, Champagne Lanson, and more. If you fancy it, leave the car at home, take public transport and enjoy a tipple or two.
5. Don’t forget the pooch. Dogs are allowed at Hurlingham Park (but not in the Club) and must be kept on a lead the entire time. But my how they love the game, don’t they?
6. Do some window (or actual) shopping. Besides the vendor stalls with jewelry, polo gear and other luxury items, some provide experiences like the chance to pose with polo helmets and mallets, or experience the action from the back of a horse with virtual reality goggles.
7. Take a picnic blanket. There is some seating in food and drink areas, but a blanket spread on the ground is the perfect spot for kids to relax, play cards and otherwise loll. Or possibly LOL.
8. Look the part. It doesn’t require your Sunday best, but everyone makes an effort to celebrate a colourful summer chic. Think sundresses and heels (wedges rather than spikes), sports coats and shorts the colour of ice cream flavours. Don’t forget the sunglasses.
9. Actually WATCH the polo. This version of the game is fast-paced, easy to follow, interesting and fun. There are lots of distractions but when the matches are on, grab a seat on the grandstand and cheer on the teams.
Mark your calendar for next year to enjoy a quintessential London summer event.
Takes place in June at Hurlingham Club, London
Family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) available, kids under age 5 go free. Early bird rate for eager buyers.
Jenography received complimentary tickets to attend Polo in the Park. All opinions are my own.