22nd Biennial New Chaucer Society Congress, Durham 2020
We are organising some (optional) full day excursions on Friday, 17th July, 2020 – for which delegates will be able to sign up via online registration. The destinations below are not easy to reach via public transport; we think that these excursions will be both educational and enjoyable; and we hope that delegates will use them as an additional opportunity to socialise!
Alnwick Castle and Gardens
Ancient seat of the Percy family, and still the home of the Dukes of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is probably best known to Chaucerians for its (somewhat eccentric) medieval copy of the Canterbury Tales. Like Durham Cathedral, Alnwick provided a backdrop for some of the Harry Potter films.
Alnwick's formal gardens, redeveloped in 1997–2006 at a cost of over £40 million, are also a popular visitor attraction.
There are a cafés in the Castle and in the Gardens, where delegates will be able to have lunch. There are also various places to eat in the town.
Alnwick also has a wonderful second-hand bookshop (Barter Books) in its now-decommissioned railway station (complete with a café in the old waiting-rooms and a working model railway running along the bookshelves!).
Hadrian's Wall: Vindolanda and Housesteads
Vindolanda is a large Roman fort, just to the south of the Wall. As well as the fort itself (which is still an active archaeological dig), there is an impressive museum, which features a number of the so-called Vindolanda letters. These – written on slivers of wood-bark and preserved in Vindoland's anaerobic soil – are some of the earliest surviving handwritten letters in Britain.
We would plan to stop off at the Wall as well (probably at Housesteads). Anyone on this trip will need sturdy footwear – and NB it can be chilly on the Wall even in mid-summer!
A packed lunch will be provided as part of the excursion-package.
Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley
Nestled in a remote valley in the Yorkshire Moors is Rievaulx Abbey, now ruined, but nevertheless a spectacular illustration of the power and wealth of the Cistercians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This is the abbey once ruled by Aelred of Rievaulx (1110–67).
We will combine the trip to Rievaulx with a visit to the pretty nearby town of Helmsley, with its medieval castle. Again, sturdy footwear is recommended, since the ruins of both Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle can be awkward under foot.
Helmsley offers various opportunities for lunch (e.g. the Black Swan hotel, Ryeburn's cafe, and Aunt Annie's bakery – to name but a few), as well as a number of interesting small shops.