UK Travel | Polo in the Cotswolds

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

A huge highlight of my recent trip to Cirencester in the Cotswolds was getting to watch my very first polo games at Cirencester Park Polo Club. After dropping our bags off at the Kings Head Hotel, Mum and I called a taxi to take us the short drive to the Polo Club.

The Kings Head were kindly hosting us in their gorgeous marquee, and as soon as we arrived, I knew the afternoon would be special.

Champagne Reception

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

The marquee was set up on a lawn right next to the polo playing field, with deck chairs and benches placed outside so we could watch the games in comfort later. Before the afternoon games started, though, we were spoilt with a champagne reception, where we got to mingle with some other guests, followed by a spectacular lunch.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

I got very excited when I spotted Jilly Cooper in the marquee, although I was too shy to say hello! To commemorate the occasion, I did order a copy of Polo later though!

Lunch

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

Our lunch was fantastic, with a buffet choice of either hot or cold food. Mum and I both went for the roast lamb with mint sauce and all the trimmings, followed by strawberry Eton mess and a shared cheese plate.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo ClubUK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo ClubUK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

Everything was delicious, and it was the perfect menu for a Sunday lunch in the English countryside.

Men’s Polo

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

After lunch, we got the chance to speak to a player and meet his beautiful pony (I soon learnt horses are called ponies in polo) – Intrigue – before the start of the men’s game.

Being a polo newbie, I took the opportunity to find out a little more about the game, learning that a full game of polo is six chukkas, with each chukka being 7 minutes long. Ponies are swapped in between chukkas so they don’t get too tired. During half-time, spectators are called on to take part in treading-in, where the churned up turf is stamped down and made flat and smooth again.

Armed with these facts, I settled down to enjoy the men’s game.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

It didn’t take me long to realise that I love polo! Normally used to being bored stiff by anything vaguely sporty, I was amazed by how fast-paced and exciting polo is. Chukkas go by at lightening speed, and it’s thrilling to watch the ponies stampeding across the field and performing hairpin turns with incredible grace and fluidity.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

At half-time, I dutifully trotted out on to the field with a merry crowd of spectators and their dogs and stomped on the grass, cheered along by the commentators.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

There was such a convivial atmosphere to the afternoon, with people enjoying picnics from the backs of their cars, or lounging in sun-chairs and chatting in front of the marquee.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

It felt like no time at all before the game was over, and prizes were handed out to the winning team, as well as for particular categories, like (my favourite) the best playing pony.

Afternoon Tea

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

Before the women’s match started, afternoon tea was served. This, I thought, was definitely the way to see polo! Exciting games, with fantastic food, champagne and piping hot tea flowing in between. Mum and I both agreed we’d definitely found our spectator sport.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

I was still full from lunch, so could only manage half a slice of Battenburg cake and a macaron, but they were lovely to nibble, and Mum said the scones were exceedingly good too – freshly baked and still warm.

A Chat with Tamara Fox

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

Before the Ladies’ Polo game started, I got the chance to speak to one of the players from the British Team, Tamara Fox. Tamara is a two goal player who plays out of Cirencester Park Polo Club. She often plays alongside her sister, Nina Clarkin.

{For those of you who don’t know much about polo – like me! – from my understanding, it’s like golf in that it uses a handicap system to rate each player, although is unlike golf in that the higher handicap you have, the better you are. Players are rated from -2 handicaps (or goals) to 10 handicaps.}

I questioned Tamara a little about her polo career and how women’s polo has changed.

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MN: What’s your background in polo? It seems like quite a family affair for you!

TF: Yes! My mother played, my sister plays and my brother. I started when I was 11 and got addicted to it. I got into the Pony Club and stayed in it until I was 20-21. I think my pinnacle really came when I got to play at Ellerston in ’99, and I was the first lady to play at Ellerston, and we won. That was amazing. From there, I think it’s all gone down hill [laughs]. I went to two goals after that, and stayed on two goals – still two goals now  – in the mixed [men and women] polo.

“I feel that, in my lifetime, polo has really developed.” – Tamara Fox

MN: Would you tell me a bit about Ladies’ Polo and your handicap system?

TF: We have a new handicap system, so we have a separate handicap to the men’s polo. When we play in the mixed polo, we play on our mixed handicap, and for me that’s 2 goals, but when we play in the ladies’ polo, we play on our ladies’ handicap, and for me that’s 7 goals. It’s a different handicap because it’s a different style of polo, and it makes it more even, because some ladies are much better at mixed polo, and some are better at ladies’ polo. I feel that, in my lifetime, polo has really developed, not just women’s polo, but polo as a whole, and it’s a fun thing to be a part of.

MN: What would you like to see happen for women’s polo in the future?

TF: I would like to see more women playing in the mixed polo, because that’s the best fun, or perhaps not more fun, but it’s different, and I’d like to see more girls doing it.

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That sounds like a brilliant ambition to me too, and I hope to see more mixed matches in the future!

Ladies’ Polo

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

The ladies’ game was just as action-packed as the men’s, and even more exciting, as I was cheering for Tamara’s team, which won! Congratulations again to Tamara and the other players.

UK Travel, Cotswolds | Cirencester Park Polo Club

Although the Polo Club after-party sounded an awful lot of fun, Mum and I had supper booked back at the hotel, so we made our farewells and called a taxi.

I have now definitely caught the polo bug, and I’d love to try my hand at a lesson, which I think would be awfully fun (happily, you don’t need any prior riding experience to take a lesson). Seeing the games seems to have awoken my 7 year-old pony-book-obsessed self, and I can’t wait to enjoy more polo in the future.

If you’ve never seen a game, then I so recommend going to one – it makes for a brilliantly entertaining day out, and if you’re in the Cotswolds area, or fancy a weekend away from London, then I can guarantee the Cirencester Park Polo Club is the place to go!

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Check out events, or book a polo lesson,  at the Cirencester Park Polo Club here. You can also book for the marquee hospitality package (which I strongly recommend!) here.

See also: my stay at the Kings Head, Cirencester.

Note: We were guests of the Kings Head Hotel for our afternoon of fun and polo.