“ 81-83 High Street / Great Missenden / HP16 0AL / Buckinghamshire / England. „
My daughter is currently learning about Roald Dahl in literacy at school, and as parents we are always keen to continue on whatever theme they are doing at school but the fun side! I hadn't ever heard of the Roald Dahl museum but knew there must be one in the country somewhere. I googled it and was right! Unfortunately for us, living near Halifax in West Yorkshire, it was some 3.5 hours away in Buckinghamshire. Never mind, I thought, Road Trip!
After initially finding the Roald Dahl Museums website, I was disappointed to see that they were not open on a Monday, as with such a long drive to do we wanted to drive up the day before on the Sunday. We soon realised that in school holidays they do open, so I called to see if I could book as we figured we would all be awfully disappointed if we got all the way there and it was full! Luckily the museum allowed me to book over the phone (online booking isn't an option which is surprising as the website is actually pretty decent). To book online call 01494 892192.
Deciding to arrive a little early as we were staying in a hotel about 15 minutes away, we were actually the first to arrive. By the time the doors had opened their was quite a queue behind us, so we were glad to be the first in through the door giving us a head start in each of the rooms. When we first arrived I was surprised to see it was actually fairly small but the children were so excited I figured we could work our way slowly around the museum. The museum is divided into 3 rooms and Miss Honey's classroom. To be fair it does say on the Museum's website that visiting will take between 60 and 90 minutes.
Situated in the heart of Great Missenden, the village where Roald Dahl lived and wrote for nearly 40 years, the museum is in the perfect for place for understanding his environment and the inspiration he may have got for some of the settings of his stories. Now when we read BFG at home, I instantly visualise Great Missenden!
The Museum while a great place to see aspects of Roald Dahl's life, was for us much more about creative writing and how to inspire my eldest daughter who has a massive interest at the moment (as did I at her age when I wanted to be Enid Blyton when I was an adult!) in creative writing and storytelling. When I called to book the tickets for half term, I was offered the opportunity to pay £3 extra for each of us to take part in a workshop with a children's author. I have to say this is one of the best £12 I have ever spent, but more about that later! According to the museum, events such as these are a regular occurrence on weekends and school holidays, some are free and some include a small charge.
The Boy Gallery:
This is the first room you will enter after purchasing your tickets. The room is small but there is lots to see and read. It tells the story of Roald Dahls life and how his experiences shaped who he became. It was quite interesting to read some of the school reports and what his teachers thought of him, and it's probably not what you would think! There is some interactive stuff in here but it is quite basic. My youngest daughter was quite bored in here as there is lots and lots of reading to do. There was a trunk full of dressing up clothes where she was able to dress up in what she called 'olden days' school uniform! I'm not sure if it was just because it was the school holidays, but the children were given a quiz sheet where they had to find out certain facts about Roald Dahl from the rooms, although these were quite difficult to find so mum and dad were mainly the ones on a mission!
The Solo Gallery:
This room is larger than the Boy Gallery and features a small version of a plane where children can get dressed up as pilots from the war and listen in to what kind of things Roald Dahl would have listened to. A hit with the girls was a height chart where they could see who they were the same height as, with BFG being right at the top. Comically one of my daughters was the same height as an Oompa Loompa! The main focal point of this gallery is however, the Writing Hut which is home to Dahl's original writing chair, or his 'little nest' as he called it. Its set up as it was when he would write and its actually fascinating to see. Just through from the writing hut is the outfit that Johnny Depp wore for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was fascinating to the children!
The Story Centre:
This room was probably the biggest hit with the children and was much more interactive than the previous two rooms, with several creative things for the children to do / play with. The first area we came across was a large dressing up box full of a variety of different costumes which were easily identifiable as characters from the books. I had BFG's large ears on, with Miss Honey's skirt and the girls were dressed as Matilda amongst many others! The next area involved making up your own weird words from magnets already there, mine was snap-hop-roo-hog-ie, which we decided was a terrible monster! This brought lots of giggles as you can imagine! There was an area to make your own movie with little action figures however this attracted a lot of children so we didn't get chance to do this. There was also an area similar to the make your own word up section, where you had to select part filled sentences to make up your own which were all very silly! My girls made up 'One day I asked my friend to sneeze spray, with skinny hand and knobbly snout, I wonder why they would not play'. All very silly but excellent for young children and to get their imaginations going. It helped my daughter realise that actually things necessarily don't have to make sense to make a good story! There is also a large crafting room full of paper with activities to do, glue, colours, things to stick - a 6 year olds Aladdin's cave!
This was what we paid extra for and was fabulous. The childrens author 9rebecca Patterson), read the book she had written and then she did several activities with the children which was fun and completely different. They absolutely loved it, as did most of the parents I think!
Miss Honey's Classroom:
In the short time that we were in the Museum we were collared by Guides telling us about storytelling sessions going on Miss Honey's Classroom. We took advantage of one of these free sessions which lasted about 15 minutes. It's basically a storytelling session and the one we went to was Revolting Rhymes (which actually prompted me to then go buy the book!). I would recommend going to these sessions as the children absolutely loved it.
If you have more time than we did and the weather is nice, there is a Village trail where you can explore the world of Roald Dahl in the Village that he lived. In the museum it explains how he found a lot of his inspiration from the High Street in Great Missenden so it would have been nice to do this trail but unfortunately we had to set off on our trek back 'oop North'.
The shop: Now funnily enough, we did have time to spend in here! I blame being a female for having to buy something from anywhere that sells something! The majority of things to buy in here are the vast collection of Roald Dahl books, some of which I had forgotten about such as Essio Trot. Here you will find every book he ever wrote in a variety of different formats. We opted for a box set of 5 books for a surprisingly decent price of £15 for my eldest daughter and Revolting Rhymes for my youngest (still love this one as a nearly 30 year old grown woman!). There are other books for sale such as a collection from Quentin Blake (the illustrator for much of Dahl's works) and various other popular children's authors (the authors book from the workshop was available and could be signed). There are audio books, book marks, limited edition prints, note books, etc, etc. We spent around £30 on books and book marks and were given a free family organiser (which was usually £8) as we had spent over £25. This was probably because they had gone unsold at the beginning of the year but it was still a nice little touch.
Café Twit looked a nice little place to get fresh and home cook food however by the time we made our way out of the Museum it was lunchtime and it's a relatively small café with probably around 10 tables in total so we didn't stand a chance. There are plenty of picnic tables in the courtyard which is in the centre of the museum so it is probably worthwhile coming prepared on a nice day and bringing sandwiches. There is a fabulous sweet shop just across from the museum which we got coaxed into! They sell things like limited edition Wonka bars and retro sweets. The Wonka bar even comes with a golden ticket and it literally made my daughters day!
Tuesday..........10am to 5pm
Wednesday.....10am to 5pm
Thursday..........10am to 5pm
Friday...............10am to 5pm
Saturday...........11am to 5pm
Sunday..............11am to 5pm
Closed most Mondays except those in Buckinghamshire half-term holidays and Bank Holiday Mondays.
In 2013 the Museum will be open on the following Mondays:
Children (5 to 18): £4.40
Children under 5: Free
Family ticket: £21.00*
(*For 2 adults and up to 3 children.)
As the Museum is situated on the High Street there isn't any parking designated to the Museum but this isn't a problem as there is plenty of spaces in a pay and display car park which is really well sign posted as you arrive in Great Missenden. This cost us a few pounds for several hours.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
81-83 High Street
(Using this postcode for sat nav gave us no problems at all).
To sum up, I would recommend this place but I wouldn't go back. It was an awful long way for us to travel however I am glad we did it as it was brilliant for the children and particularly my eldest daughter. I would possibly say if you are going to travel to see it, that you plan other things to do. Had we been aware, we would have taken them to the Model Village which we passed signs for on the motorway which i don't think will be too far. Price wise, I think it's 'okay' perhaps a tad expensive for something which only takes an hour to go round, in comparison to prices at Eureka Childrens Science Museum which is near us which is 10 times as big, takes hours to get round and is the same price.....
Filling in those long days during half-term school holidays can seem interminable. These days I find myself a slave to the Internet more and more as I seek out new ideas. This particular half-term saw me resorting to a quick search on Google to hopefully return some suggestions. Scanning the deepest recesses of the Hinterweb, I ended up at www.kayukay.co.uk, which lists places to go in "Middle England with kids". Of the locations shown, the one that piqued my interest the most was the Roald Dahls Childrens Gallery in Aylesbury. In a bizarre twist of fate, whilst researching for even more information, I ended up locating a relatively new museum dedicated to the famous childrens author just a few miles further on from Aylesbury based in the small village of Great Missenden.
Great Missenden is situated a few miles to the south of Aylesbury off the A413. From the Midlands and North by road you can either go M6/M1 > M25 > A41 >A416 Amersham > A413 to Great Missenden or approaching from the South, generally get to the M25 then follow the above. Interestingly, AA Routefinder didnt recognise Great Missenden so I had to use the old-fashioned road atlas (shock) and took the A43 > A413 from Northampton so our route was straightforward. Trains arrive at Great Missenden, which has its own station, every 40 minutes from London Marylebone. You have to use the local council car park if using your car and take a short walk into the heart of the village to get to the museum. It costs £1.50 for 3 hours or £2 for 4 hours, which should be ample for most peoples visit.
The museum and Story Centre was established in 2001. Its stated aim is to tell Roald Dahls life story, to care for his archive and to promote creative writing. The Museum employs professional staff, has a board of Trustees and is supported by Patrons. When you leave the car park to get to the museum, its a couple of minutes walk into the village. Situated on the left of the main street, the Roald Dahl Museum is almost hidden amongst a row of terraced shops and houses. The actual museum itself looks like converted terraced houses and would be easy to walk straight past! Entering through the front of the building, you are greeted with the reception room on the left whilst the rest of the museum is a set of rooms based around a courtyard in the centre in of a quadrangle (just like one of my old schools used to be *sigh*).
The Boy and Solo Galleries are devoted to Dahls life and times as he grew up. Entering through doors made to look like bars of chocolate, the Boy Gallery houses exhibits such as original letters from Dahls childhood along with artefacts such as his school tie and other childhood mementoes housed in glass cabinets and presentations hanging on walls. Adorned with written snippets of real life tales from his childhood, family photographs and touch-screen monitors set up to give more background to his books, its an opportunity to revisit the authors life from school times to wartime as an RAF pilot and beyond. Given a list of activities at reception to undertake whilst going around the museum, did you know that Matilda died in the original draft of the book or that Charlie and The Chocolate Factory featured 15 children to start with, eventually finishing with just 4 after several re-drafts?
The Solo Gallery builds on the exhibits in the Boy-themed displays and large, plastic moulded books (looking as though they have been lost by a giant) with Dahl titles and a mini-puppet theatre that children can play around with add to the feeling of good humour that goes with all things Dahl. The archive of manuscripts, letters and photographs are available online at www.roalddahlmuseum.org if you wanted to have a look either before hand or afterwards. Both the Boy and Solo Galleries form the larger Crocodile Gallery, which is merely the corridor that takes you down one side of the quadrangle. Its very child friendly with baby buggies actively encouraged throughout the site.
The Story Centre houses plenty of interactive features that my kids loved. There are interactive word exercises where kids and adults alike can make up silly words and phrases, TV screens playing excerpts from famous authors like Philip Pullman and J K Rowling reflecting on what makes a good author, a mock up of Dahls Writing Shed and (at the moment) an exhibit dedicated to the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and more. Its all very hands on and the children in there were having a wail of a time. I just had to sit in the replica of Dahls writing chair, prepared meticulously with accurate measurements as to where his writing board was positioned to give him maximum comfort when writing.
Round on the other side of the quadrangle is The Inventing Room, The Children Eating Room and the Cafe. The Inventing Room is a rather sparse affair designed more for visiting authors and storytellers rather than anything else. We were talked into listening to a silly rhyming session undertaken by two of the staff who kept the 30 or so adults and children royally entertained with some particularly colourful renditions of some of Dahls work. The worringly named, Children Eating Room is designed for arts and crafts and children can make things, paint and generally be creative. We only really peeked in at this room as it was packed to the rafters when we were doing our rounds! The Twits Café had opened on its first day during our visit. A bit too small, its a cramped affair with a small room aimed at providing drinks, cakes and snacks. A couple of hot chocolates and 2 fruit juices set me back around £6 with the hot chocolates costing £1.60 each alone but the most noticeable thing was the number of people who took one look after opening the door then walked out again as it was full. I guess the saving grace will be the tables and chairs in the courtyard when sunnier days arrive giving more people the chance to find a seat out in the open although it was under-employed when we there.
Finally, back to reception, youll find a gift shop dedicated to Dahls books and general bits and bobs for kids. I didnt entertain buying a book from the shop as I suspected it would be top end of the price range but its always nice to have a mooch and see whats available.
There are all sorts of activities that go on at the museum throughout the day. On our particular visit, a professional author and story-teller was resident for the day and £5 per head would have secured a spot listening to his stories (that included the normal admission). By checking the web site in advance, it is possible to see whats going on before you arrive to get more from the day than maybe you would without checking first.
Another reason for checking in advance is that the museum is popular for organised school trips and you may want to side-step the attraction on that particular day!
The Roald Dahl Childrens Museum has been long-listed for The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries for 2006. With the short list due to be announced shortly and the winner on May 20th, its a reflection of the museums standing that it is being considered. Neatly laid out with enthusiastic staff and a genuinely interesting archive, the site has lots to see and do for kids and Dahl enthusiasts alike. We spent around 2 and a half hours there and I couldnt see it taking up much more than half a day at most for most people but it's good value for money and a nice way to spend a few hours. Go try it!
Thanks for reading
Opening hours are 10am 5pm Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. The museum is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Ticket Prices: £16 Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children under 18), £4.95 adults, £3.50 children over 5 and under 18 and over 65s, under 5s go free. Bookings can be made by telephone or online as well as pay on the day.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
81-83 Great Missenden
New venue which will chart the life and work of one of the world's favorite storytellers is scheduled to open in 2005 in Buckinghamshire, UK.