22nd Biennial New Chaucer Society Congress

Durham, 11th–14th July 2022


There are three full day excursions on Friday, 15th July, 2022. The destinations 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!

Please remember to bring your delegate-badge/lanyard. It might be useful for entry to some of the sites.

Also: Please be prepared for all weathers. In northern England in July almost anything is possible! Coats/umbrellas and sun-tan lotion might be equally useful – it is well within the bounds of possibility that we will have to deal with both heavy rain and warm sunshine on the same day!

Arrival-back-in-Durham times are not guaranteed: e.g. there is always the possibility of delays due to traffic.

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!).

Entry to both castle and gardens included. 

Depart: John Snow College: 9.30am.
Arrival back in Durham: about 5.15pm.
Volunteers: Mike Huxtable, Carrie Thomas, Beth Clanchy, Wanjie Feng

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 Vindolanda's anaerobic soil – are some of the earliest surviving handwritten letters in Britain. 

We will also be stopping off at the Wall as well – at Housesteads, where there is another fort to explore; and the opportunity to enjoy a good stretch of the Wall itself. 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.

Entry to Vindolanda and Housesteads included. 

Depart: John Snow College: 9.30am.
Arrival back in Durham: about 6.15pm.
Volunteers: Laurie Atkinson, Kate Thomas, Matthew Malone, Euan Martin

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.

There is plenty to explore at Rievaulx (including a small museum, shop and café). We will reach Helmsley about 2pm, where there are various opportunities for a lateish lunch/afternoon tea (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. There is also a lovely walled garden, with views of the castle, and a good café/restaurant, the Vine House. (Entry to the garden is not included, but is not expensive. It is not necessary to pay garden-entry to use the Vine House.)

Entry to Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle included. 
Depart: John Snow College: 9.30am.
Arrival back in Durham: about 6.30pm.
Volunteers: Neil Cartlidge, Charlotte Thompson, Euan Martin