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WRITERS' GARDENS


A garden that is full of fun and magic – Roald Dahl’s garden in Buckinghamshire makes a perfect family day out


Above: The gorgeous gipsy caravan in the garden grounds


Roald Dahl’s magical garden


- just like the man himself by Vivienne Lewis


Tucked away in a village in Buckinghamshire there is a magical garden, full of surprises, just as surprising as its creator – the children’s writer Roald Dahl.


He lived at Gipsy House, Great Missenden from 1954 until his death in 1990. His widow Felicity still lives there, so it remains a family home, not a museum (there is a museum devoted to Roald Dahl, down the road, making for another interesting visit).


Below: Roald Dahl –critics agree 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' is among the top ten children’s books every child should read


It was in a hut in the garden that he wrote his famous books – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Danny - Champion of the World, Matilda, The BFG, and many others. More than 20 years after his death, his books are as popular as ever, all over the world.


At first sight the garden may look traditional, with its York stone terrace, the roses and herbaceous borders, vegetable garden and greenhouse. There is a sunken garden and a sundial garden.


But the surprises start with the vegetable garden. The greenhouse contains the giant peaches made famous in James and The Giant Peach, but also nectarines, three varieties of desert grapes,a collection of pelargoniums and a small goldfish tank. Among a wide variety of vegetables there are the mammoth onions that Dahl so loved growing.


Walking through the walled garden you come to a children’s maze, created from yew and


8 Country Gardener


boxwood. The paths are paved with quotations from Roald Dahl’s books. When you leave the maze you go into a lime tree tunnel and this leads to the writing hut. The wild flower meadow leads into the orchard at the front of the house. There is a small wild garden where you’ll find the old painted caravan that Dahl’s children played in and has been immortalised in Danny - the Champion of the World.


This is a place of the imagination for adults as well as children, but it is only open on certain days. This year the openings, for the National Gardens Scheme, are on two afternoons in May, one in June and another in July (see below). It remains a secluded private place for most of the year, which makes the open days so special.


For many years, while the Dahl family were growing up, it was a quite ordinary garden. Roald Dahl was busy with his writing, novels and short stories (remember Tales of the Unexpected on television?) and screenwriting. His first wife was Patricia Neal, the film actress who had starred with Paul Newman in Hud and won an Oscar for her role. Roald and Patricia were married for 30 years and they had five children. He became her carer when she suffered a major illness, but she recovered sufficiently to resume her career. They divorced in 1983 and he married Felicity.


Roald Dahl’s stories for adults have unexpected endings, and the children’s books are known – and loved – for their often dark humour.


YOUNG GARDENERS


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