Archive Assistant Tilly takes a walk around Roald Dahl's home village of Great Missenden
Hi! I’m Tilly the Archive Assistant, and I started at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre about a month ago now. Not long after I started I went on the village walking tour around Great Missenden to take in the place that inspired and influenced Roald Dahl in some of his wonderful children’s books – including Danny the Champion of the World, The BFG and Matilda.
If you'd like to go on this walk you can pick up a copy of this map from the museum.
Immediately out and right from the museum are the petrol pumps from the old gas station that inspired Danny the Champion of the World. Although now standing outside an estate agents, it’s a nice reminder of the village that Roald would have been tramping around in.
Just opposite, before the roundabout, you will see the village library. Here Roald imagined children like Matilda, sitting inside and learning – perhaps whilst their dad uses the petrol station somewhere else in the village.
Turning left at the roundabout and heading up to the station you can see the newsagents ‘Samways’, which was around when Roald lived in the village, and was probably the inspiration for the name of the policeman in Danny the Champion of the World. With a ‘Daily Telegraph’ awning, it’s still operating today. Carrying on the road you will come to Great Missenden Station. Most likely Roald visited here whilst he was writing one of his more unusual commissions – Roald Dahl’s Guide to Railway Safety, a pamphlet published by the British Railways Board and illustrated by Quentin Blake.
Turning left out of the museum if you look on the wall you will see an enormous painted BFG! Great Missenden’s High Street was the original street that Dahl imagined the BFG stalking down, blowing dreams through the windows of children, before catching a glimpse of Sophie peeking through the curtains.
If you carry on left through the village, past the beautiful little cottages and houses that line Church Street you will come to an atmospheric quiet road up to the old church with overhanging trees. To your right is Abbey park, where the River Misbourne runs. This river is a bit of a secret, as it runs underneath your feet. It fully rises up later down the valley, but sits quietly under Great Missenden.
You can take a little detour here, and head down to this part by following the public footpath on your right, just before the bridge. This is a bit different to the sometimes busy High Street, and is a great reminder of the Buckinghamshire countryside that Roald was so immersed in – and the reason why he decided to settle here in the first place.
If you carry on down Church Street, the parish church of Great Missenden sits on top of a little hill, and as you walk up alongside it you will be greeted with astonishing views all around you. I was lucky to have excellent weather on my stumble up there. Roald was buried in the grounds of this church, and a tree with benches was planted in memorial of Great Missenden’s most famous resident – try and spot the BFG footprints!
Great Missenden is a busy but inviting village, and living here provided Roald with a great deal of material which he poured into his books. It just goes to show that the strangest things, like a bright red petrol pump, can inspire a brilliant story.
Find out more about Roald Dahl's love of nature, the outdoors and the local area in My Year, re-published for the first time in 20 years and available online or at the Museum.