Friday, 22 July 2016

Roaming in Roald’s footsteps

On the centenary of his birth, visit the Chilterns village that inspired Roald Dahl

Written by Wendy Gomersall
Writer Roald Dahl has been hailed as one of the greatest children’s storytellers of the 20th century thanks to extraordinarily imaginative tales such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox and The BFG.

Now, as Steven Spielberg’s marvellous movie of the story of Sophie and the kindly giant arrives in UK cinemas, and the centenary of his birth in Llandaff, Cardiff, is marked on 13 September, interest in the author’s life is set to increase.

The place to visit to learn more is Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, the pretty Chilterns village where Dahl lived for 36 years. In 1990, he was buried there, in the cemetery at St Peter & St Paul’s Church near the big memorial bench – look out for the giant’s footprints!

On the high street you’ll find the brilliant Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – which has three fun galleries, featuring archive material and interactive displays – where you can learn about Dahl’s childhood, his love of chocolate and his schoolboy pranks.

Then see his Writing Hut and its quirky mementos and have a go at creating your own character and story. The museum – www.roalddahl. com/museum – is also due to house some of the costumes and props from the new BFG blockbuster, as well as one of the film’s promotional Dream Jars created by assorted celebrities including Roald Dahl’s granddaughter Sophie. Admission costs £6.60 for adults and £4.40 for children.

Afterwards, enjoy tea and cake at Café Twit before taking the self-guided Roald Dahl Trail that encompasses key sights such as the Post Office where 4,000 fan letters a week would arrive for the author, the bright red petrol pumps that inspired the garage in Danny The Champion Of The World and Crown House, the timberframed building on which he based Sophie’s ‘norphanage’ in The BFG. A longer walk takes in inspiring ancient woodlands and countryside.

There are some great little shops on the high street, too, including homeware boutique Big Sky. An alternative venue for afternoon tea on a Sunday is St Peter & St Paul, where you can take tea with the soothing sounds of classical music playing in the background.

If you have brought the car, you might like to take in Roald Dahl’s Children’s Gallery at the Buckinghamshire County Museum – www. buckscountymuseum.org – in nearby Aylesbury. For more Chilterns sightseeing, go to www.visitchilterns.co.uk

Great Missenden’s train station is right in the village centre, so you can walk to most places of interest. Chiltern Railways – www. chilternrailways.co.uk – operates services from London Marylebone.

It is a bit of a hike to 15th-century coaching inn The Nags Head, one of Dahl’s favourite watering holes, though, so jump in a taxi. It’s a lovely place to stay, and serves scrumptious food – the menu might include 21-day aged beef or roasted lamb. Rooms at the inn cost from £115 per night full rate: 01494-862200, www.nagsheadbucks.com u For details of Roald Dahl Centenary events, including the Dream Jar public art trail: www.visitengland.com

Contact Wendy at wendy.gomersall@lady.co.uk
Prices are correct at time of going to press.



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