Weather: One of those truly glorious sun filled autumn days, as we left we could see ‘the wood ahead of us, huge and dark with the sun going down behind the trees and lilt sparks of gold shining through’, to quote Danny the Champion of the World.
Logistics: There are two car parks to choose from, opposite each other and both about a five minute walk from the museum itself. It’s very well sign posted and easy to find. There’s also a playground next to the car park should your kids need to burn off some energy after some scrumdiddlyumptious food in the cafe.
Activities: We have been here few times now and this place is full to the brim of fun things to do. I had assumed that 3 hours parking would be enough for us to do the museum, follow the guided walk to local Dahl themed landmarks and have a spot of lunch in the cafe. I was very wrong. We spent the entire time in the museum. Damn kids, with their enthusiasm and creativity. Grrrrr.
Inside the museum there’s a wealth of information about the big man himself, including his actual writing room which has been transported from his shed to the museum itself. Thanks to the deep knowledge and love of of children that is central to this museum there is nothing on show that cannot also be fiddled with - there are replicas of Roald’s chair, his gewgaws and his self-made writing desk, though the originals are safely sealed behind glass.
Everywhere there are buttons to push, levers to pull and clothes to dress up in. Kids can access the information at a range of different levels; be it simply fiddling with stuff or using the objects to gain deeper knowledge of the topic at hand - either way is fine. This makes it ideal for taking kids of different ages and interests - though you do need sharp eyesight or high-vis jackets because I find the buggers can go missing very easily, slipping round corners or lurking in the shadows or putting on an actual disguise. (There are massive gates though, so unless your child is hell-bent on escaping, they are pretty safe.)
This museum doesn’t only provide practical information, there are a wide range of creative activities for everyone to get stuck into as well. Honestly, I reckon my stop motion animation was worthy of Aardman; even small kid said it was ‘a good try’, which is high praise indeed. There are always pleasing resources for use in the craft room, creative writing activities and both our kids minds were blown in the (relatively) new optical illusions area. The creativity station offers the kids the ability to engage with story writing, sentence building and developing a love of vocabulary through practical varied activities, not just bunging a pen and paper at them and barking ‘Write something!’ (which is what i tend to do). I think it speaks well of a museum that I became totally engrossed in making my creations, to the utter neglect of my children who were left to fend for themselves for the better part of an hour. Their efforts were pretty okay too though and they were proud of them, so I don’t feel any guilt at all.
On previous visits, we have also joined in with the story times which allow full participation as part of the chorus or dressing up as the characters, if your child is a bit of a luvee. I could wax lyrical about the importance of shared recitation and vigorous participation in poetry reading. That feeling of shared emotion, of building an atmosphere together and appreciating the success of your team work is very special indeed. I honestly think it is something most adults have lost with the rise of secularism - kids get to do shared performance at assemblies at least once a week in school but adults rarely get to sit in a group and participate in communal call and response activities. It is joyous and, what is more, good for your soul - or your mind, depending on how you view these things. See, I told you I could wax lyrical about it!
Coffee: Not a clue, sorry. They had all the right equipment and it certainly looked good but I have been fooled before so I am not a reliable reporter on this.
Food: The cafe offers a good range of home baked goods. It’s been a while since we’ve eaten there as big kid is now a ravenous beast whose appetite can only be sated by a full roast hog, so we went elsewhere this time. However, on my brief recce to see if they had enough food to fill big kid’s ravenous maw, it certainly made my mouth water. Homemade soup, well-filled sandwiches, delicious looking scones - it was just the kind of food I would like to be eating. Sigh.
Grounds: The museum is very well designed and packs a lot into a very small space. And this sculpture to celebrate Matilda’s 30th birthday is just *kisses tips of fingers*.
Accessibility: There are cobbles on the way in which might give people in a wheelchairs a bit of a thrill but most of it is on the ground floor and should be pretty navigable - though the optical illusion room might be difficult to access. For those who can find crowds a bit tricky, it is usually possible to find quiet spot to chill out in if necessary or there are walks in the woods . I would say that a certain level of attention and understanding are necessary to fully engage with the activities
Overall: The museum is small but full of zest, creativity and mischief; just like one of Dahl’s beloved characters.