Student field trip to Haworth and Whitby
Two years later than planned due to the pandemic, the Department of English ‘Wuthering Bites!’ field trip to Haworth and Whitby at the start of April 2022 was well worth the wait. Arriving in Haworth on the Friday afternoon, the group visited the Bronte parsonage and church, with parsonage museum highlights including the Brontës’ toys, a recreation of brother Branwell’s art studio and a special exhibition of Charlotte’s clothes. Once we left the shelves of the gift shop almost bare, some of the group went into town to buy bath salts and other smellies, while others went for a short trek across the moors to soak up some picturesque instead. After some nice grub in Branwell’s old haunt, The Black Bull, we caught the coach to Whitby. Our arrival at Whitby YHA was a gothicist’s dream - in the dark of night, walking along the cobbles by the side of the Abbey ruins to our place of rest, the YHA! Before bedtime, we read some of the Brontës’ poetry, playing ‘guess the sister’.
On the bright Saturday morning, we walked to Whitby museum and art gallery on the other side of the town, where the treasure hunt began, looking for death’s head moths, creepy dolls, and hands of glory, although the exhibition of wedding photos of Whitby, 1950 to now, seemed to be the main attraction. After a picnic in the park, we went to the pier to read the passages describing Dracula’s arrival, and tried to spot the cutest hell hound. Back at the YHA, a ‘Mapping Dracula’ session gave us the chance to dive more deeply into those parts of the novel that took place in Whitby, and to track Dracula, Mina, and Lucy’s movements. It ended in St Mary’s churchyard with a lively debate as to which spot was most likely the site of Dracula's first attack on Lucy. Staff and students had some free time at dinner, with many seeking out Whitby’s delicious fish and chips, as well as a chance to sample the delights of Whitby at night. Quite a few chose to convene back at the YHA after dinner though to read and discuss a short story by S. T. Gibson about the brides of Dracula--perfect for starting to get us to thinking about how the novel and conceptions of the vampire have changed over time.
On Sunday, we looked back to the past first though, beginning with a fascinating overview of the history of the vampire, before working in groups with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sources as we discussed how some of the most popular ideas about the vampire first emerged, from the causes of vampirism to how to kill a vampire. Then we all had the chance to get creative: in small groups, we used some of the knowledge gained in the earlier sessions and came up with our own vampires, including their back story and their own experiences of Whitby. We had fun sharing our vampire tales, which ran the spectrum from tragic to hilarious to gruesome. After lunch, we had the option of heading to the imposing Whitby Abbey for a bit of history, or to the scream- and laugh-inducing Dracula Experience--some even managed both! We also had a bit of free time to wander through the many shops and finish up the weekend-long treasure hunt activities, before all meeting for dinner at Sander’s Yard Bistro, which was topped off by some delicious cake. Back at the YHA, while tallying up the results of the treasure hunt and awarding the celebratory prize, some students shared their treasure hunt videos of Mina’s run to find Lucy and the recreation of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ dance, all of which were met with laughter and some well-deserved applause--a real highlight of the trip! Bea Worrell’s fantastic ‘The Hunt for Dracula’ short film can be found here. We topped off our last night in Whitby with a viewing of The Lost Boys and an enthusiastic chat about the film, ’80s fashion, and how the figure of the vampire continues to evolve in popular culture. All in all, a spooky, fun and fantastic trip--and one that has to be done again!