Roald Dahl lived in Great Missenden for 36 years, weaving features of the village into many of his stories. This year, the author's life and work are being celebrated with a number of events hosted by the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, see information below.
The Roald Dahl Village Trail is a good way to look around, to visit Dahl's grave and to identify the models for such memorable places as Sophie’s 'norphanage' in The BFG or the library visited by Matilda while her mum went off to Aylesbury to play bingo. Choices for refreshment in the High Street range from Café Twit to the 16th century Cross Keys.
What to see in Great Missenden
The new Cycle Chilterns Bike Hub at Great Missenden is just half an hour by train from London and has great cycling of all kinds on the doorstep; National Cycle Network route 57 goes through the centre of the village close to the Roald Dahl museum and the Chilterns Cycleway is a few miles away. Stage 6 of the Friends Life Tour of Britain will also pass through the village on 12th September after the infamous Kop Hill climb. A wide variety of cycle route maps and places to visit are available on the Cycle Chilterns website.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – established here in Roald Dahl's home village, the centre inspires young visitors (aged 6-12) with hands-on story-telling activities and the story of Dahl's own life and work. As well as the interactive Story Centre, there are two fun-filled, fact-packed galleries, plus a new gallery which includes Roald Dahl's original Writing Hut. There are more rooms for craft activities and story telling sessions – and Café Twit.
Into the countryside
Country walks begin right at the railway station. This link leads to details of two walks of 4½ miles and 3 miles, plus 3 circular walks along the Misbourne Valley, taking in Great Missenden, Little Missenden, Amersham and Chalfont St Giles. These walks follow the Misbourne Stream and then link back through Chilterns woodlands and farmland. You can download an extra sheet giving information on the history, geology and archaeology of the routes.
For cyclists, the Hampden Route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail provides a signposted circular ride, mainly on quiet roads, through several lovely villages. A shorter family route is also signposted. Great Hampden was the home of Oliver Cromwell's cousin John Hampden, the leading parliamentarian who was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Chalgrove. He was buried in an unmarked spot inside the church at Great Hampden, which has a peaceful, rural setting beside Hampden House – no longer open to the public. The Hampden Arms makes a very pleasant break on this route.
Amersham – 7 miles from Great Missenden.
Little Missenden (2.8 miles) and The Lee (3.4 miles) – the Buckinghamshire production company, Bentley Productions, set the very first episode of Midsomer Murders in Little Missenden and The Lee. The typical Chilterns charm of these two small villages established the 'Old England' look that is the hallmark of this ever-popular series. Grouped around its village green, much of The Lee was 'modelled' by the Stewart-Liberty family. The gateway of their former home at 'Pipers' displays the figurehead from the navy's last wooden warship, HMS Impregnable. The ship's timbers were used in extending the famous family store Liberty's of London. Pubs where Barnaby and Troy loved to stop for a pint include the 17th century Red Lion at Little Missenden and the idyllic Cock & Rabbit and Graziemille Restaurant at The Lee, re-sited and reconstructed by Arthur Liberty in 1907. Come to Little Missenden in October to enjoy the Little Missenden Festival of high quality music in the intimate setting of the small Saxon-cum-Norman village church.
Hughenden Manor – 5 miles from Great Missenden. The country home of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli offers a vivid and entertaining insight into his colourful personal and political life. The formal garden has been recreated based on the original designs of Mary Anne, Disraeli's doting wife. There's added interest in the Second World War room in the cellars and there are plenty of hands-on activities for children. The 4-mile Hughenden Boundary Walk explores the beech woods and pastures of the surrounding estate, visiting the Disraeli monument and the church where 'Dizzy' is buried.
West Wycombe Park – 9 miles from Great Missenden. Sir Francis Dashwood created these perfectly preserved Rococo gardens in the mid-18th century, inspired by his Grand Tours of Europe. The landscaped park sets off the striking style of his fine Palladian mansion, often described as the most theatrical and Italianate house in England. The house is lavishly decorated using fine marble, with painted ceilings by Borgnis and pictures, furniture and sculpture dating from Sir Francis's time. West Wycombe Park and village are both owned by the National Trust.
West Wycombe's one main street is lined with cottages and inns of varying styles, dating from the 16th-18th centuries. Climb West Wycombe Hill to reach the Church of St Lawrence with its Golden Ball and the vast, roofless Dashwood Mausoleum, inspired by the Emperor Constantine's Triumphal Arch in Rome.
Walk through the countryside estates of West Wycombe, Bradenham and Hughenden – these easy walks deliver the seasonal colour of the beech woods and bluebells, and fantastic views. A children's quiz accompanies the Hughenden and Downley Walk and there is also a downloadable sheet on its historic, geological and archaeological features. This walk can be reached by train, from Saunderton on the Chiltern Line.
The Hell Fire Caves – 9 miles from Great Missenden. These caves on the West Wycombe Estate were dug out by hand in the 1750s and funded by Sir Francis Dashwood to provide employment for out-of-work farmhands. The caves became a meeting place for his Hell-Fire Club, which was legendary for its debauched and ritualistic antics. Said to be haunted, the chalk passages of the caves wind deep beneath the hillside to the scene of the former revels in the Banqueting Hall and Inner Temple.
The Horse Trust in Speen – 5 miles from Great Missenden. The long-established charity provides an idyllic, rural home of rest for retired military, police and other working horses and sanctuary for ill-treated and rescued horses, ponies and donkeys. Meet the horses, visit the tea-room and shop.
Roald Dahl Children's Gallery in Aylesbury – 10 miles from Great Missenden. Young children explore the worlds of Dahl's characters inside a Giant Peach, down Fantastic Mr Fox’s tunnel, in Matilda’s library and other fantabulous settings in the Discovery and Imagination Galleries, linked by the Great Glass Elevator.