This year marks a hundred years since the birth of one of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors, Roald Dahl. To mark the occasion, Tatton Park in Cheshire will host a series of different events and activities based around the life’s work of the great man. For lifelong Dahl fans both young and old, this will prove especially interesting; but what exactly is on offer? Let’s examine the various attractions on offer.
Danny the Champion of the World
This 1975 novel told the story of a young boy who lived in a caravan with his father. It’s among Dahl’s more personal works, as it features a caning scene that’s heavily based on Dahl’s actual real-life experience of being caned, recounted later in ‘Boy’. The Gardens of Tatton Park are an excellent place to relive Danny’s pheasant-trapping adventures – though you’ll need to beware of the gamekeepers looking to trap you!
Fantastic Mr Fox
This novel came out in 1970, and has since earned considerable love among successive generations of children. It tells the story of a fantastically clever fox whose chicken-stealing exploits eventually incite the murderous rage of three local famers: Boggis, an enormously fat man; Bunce, a ‘pot-bellied dwarf’; and Bean, a terribly lanky and clever farmer who subsists solely on apple cider. The three farmers besiege the fox’s hole, shoot his tail off and use mechanical diggers to force him deep underground – but naturally, the Fox is far too cunning, and finds a way around them to steal more chickens than ever before!
Tatton Park’s tribute to this well-loved novel is based, as you might expect, on the ground’s extensive farms. There, children and adults will be able to search for the fox themselves – but they’d better find him before the three farmers do!
Matilda is among the last novels published during Dahl’s lifetime. It tells the story of a beleaguered and highly-intelligent schoolgirl whose parents are neglectful and somewhat cruel. Upon arriving at school, she discovers that her headmistress is a tyrant, and that her intellectual prowess is underappreciated. She then develops telekinetic powers, which she uses to terrifying effect (a little bit like Steven King’s ‘Carrie’; but not entirely).
Visitors to Tatton Park will be able to follow Matilda’s trail of practical jokes, and go on a letter-collecting trail to discover Matilda’s favourite book. There’s also a library full of stories that’ll entertain visitors just as much as they entertained Matilda herself!
The Enormous Crocodile
The Enormous Crocodile is a picture-book, released in 1978, whose subject matter is quite self-explanatory. The enormous crocodile in question is intent on eating children, but when he explains this ambition to the other animals in the jungle, he is met with horror. Undeterred, the crocodile goes and attempts to catch and eat children, but his attempts are thwarted by the other animals of the jungle. Eventually, an elephant loses patience with the crocodile and hurls him into the sun. The book combines a fun-loving innocence with a sense of the macabre – and so it’s amused and terrified children as only Dahl books are capable of doing.
The Tatton Park tribute to this particular book sees visitors delve deep into the park’s extensive forestland. There, they’ll be able to search for the enormous crocodile themselves – while being careful to avoid being eaten!
The Big Draw
Of course, Roald Dahl’s work wouldn’t have been quite so memorable had it not been paired with the distinctive drawings of Quentin Blake. Throughout October, visitors to the park will be able to celebrate this visual influence on these classic stories through the Big Draw, which will allow visitors to contribute to this amazing festival.
Learn to write
If you’d like to learn to write like Roald Dahl, then you’ll be pleased to learn that you’ll have an opportunity to do so, courtesy of a writing workshop on the 20th of October led by Joy Winkler, a former Cheshire poet Laurette. The workshop is aimed at adults, and entry is £15.
The park is also hosting two seasonal distractions, including a tribute to The Witches for Hallowe’en, and a more generally Dahl-themed Christmas event to go alongside the park’s usual Christmas-themed fun. If you’re a fan of Roald Dahl and his works, and you live in Cheshire, then there’s no excuse not to pop along and see what’s on offer. But even if you live further afield, there are a multitude of quality hotels in Chester – among them Carden Park, a hotel, golf-course, spa, swimming pool and Christmas party venue in Cheshire.