Hiding up a Wimbledon hill and sitting comfortably behind towering trees is the rare find of a London building that manages to be both majestic and tranquil. As you walk through a main gate, into a piece of land purchased by the Thai Government in the ’60s, you’ll catch sight of Buddhapadipa Temple at the summit of concrete steps.
It’s a sight that’ll make you either want (depending on your character) to speed up your ascent or grind to a halt completely to take in the red, white and shimmering gold of the temple’s exterior. Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll be asked to remove your shoes before poking your head inside the small but beautifully imposing room full of three stunning statues and opulent decor. Inside, you may well also run into a Thai monk on hand to tell you about the traditions at the temple.
These monks first took up residence in London when the property was purchased in August 1965 (for a sum of—look away now if you’re in the market for a house in London—£17,000). Previously situated in East Sheen, the temple was moved over to Wimbldeon in 1975 to make way for an ordination hall, and it wasn’t until 1982 that the move was complete and Buddhapadipa Temple, as we see it now, came into being.
A day out at Buddhapadipa Temple
On my visit, a July afternoon with a slight gust of wind and only a sprinkling of clouds retracting from the blazing sun, barely a soul walked the grounds. It was Sunday, and the realisation that this was still London was difficult to comprehend in a space which felt light years from the ferocious rattling of life closer to the centre.
Had I known about the meditation classes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (3-5pm), I may have stuck around inside the temple for longer… but after being dazzled by the building itself, it was time to explore the equally arresting gardens that surround it. Every corner feels like a slither of art – from the running water by the bridge that leads you over to shrubbery and swathes of vibrant plants, to the corners of the woodland that are home to tiny models of animals and figures.
There’s both calm and delight to be found at Buddhapapida Temple – a day out here relieved the tightness in my chest from the week before, allowing a decompression from the fractious speed of the city. That’s what the sunshine and a beautiful building will do to you.
Find Buddhapapida Temple at 14 Calonne Road, SW19 5HJ (nearest station is Wimbledon Park). Admission is completely free, and the grounds are open daily between 9am and 6pm. You can find out more about the temple and events they run throughout the year at their website.