Events: York

It was ace. You should have been there.


Every Easter since 2007, Wychwood, some old gits & some young 'uns descend on Danelaw Dark Age Village, in the Yorkshire Museum of Farming in Murton Park outside York. We spent the week looking after the village, chatting to the public, fighting, making kit and drinking.
And sleeping in authentic mud huts, eating authentic food, and washing in the disabled loo's washbasin.
Oh dear.


There are lots of photos of us in York up on Facebook. You can also watch our holiday video.


Hauk uploaded a gallery showing the village (& village life) here and a gallery of portraits here.
Thorvald uploaded two galleries here and here.
Arinbjorn uploaded two galleries here and here.
I'm sure you can find other galleries, if you're a member of Facebook.
Alfred uploaded some photos to the Wychwood Photobucket as well- email the list for details.

What did we do?


We drove up to York Thursday morning, Ingibjorg hiring a minibus and picking people up in Oxford. This took a while, so we got there Thursday evening.
After meeting up with the guys who run the farm, we all ran around being amazed at how cool the whole village was and choosing our houses.
That evening, to make things easier, we ate pizza.


Sitting around the fire that evening we created the backstory for the village- the tale that later became the Hauksby Saga. A large part of this was deciding on nationality and names. This obviously caused problems, and in order to help people remember we did a simple game whereby we went round the circle naming as many people as we could until we all remembered them. Ish. Some of us never learnt all the names.
And by 2008 half the people had changed their names! Grr.

Friday-Monday: Breakfast

The days we were open to the public fell into a fairly set pattern. We'd wake up between 8 and 9 and cook porridge on the village green. We'd also boil some water on the camping stove, for tea/coffee. Sliced bread would be toasted over the fire.
In 2008, when it was snowing, we went up to the main building and they made us proper toast and tea and coffee. This was very nice, and warm.
Then we'd do a manic tidy, and make everything authentic for 10. Any houses with bags in had to have signs across telling people to keep out.


Friday-Monday: The Public

The public started arriving at about 10.30 every day (except when it was too cold/wet). All day, people would hang around the village green. In general, people did one of four things:

Crafty stuff

Some people made soft kit, other people did crafts like tablet weaving, spinning wool, making wire jewellery, carving spoons, lucetting, making shields or scabbards for knives.


Foody stuff

Our lunch was generally an authentic stew, served alongside a cold spread of cheese and bread and sausage. This meant there was lots of chopping up of ingredients to be done. The stews involved lots of beans, onions, greens, bacon, nettles and so on.
And, of course, we chat to the public about our food:

  • What did the Saxons and Vikings eat?
    • Meat? Yep. They ate most of the same meats we do. But there's a problem. You've seen the pigs, yes? They're very big! You can't eat one all in one go, and we haven't got fridges to keep it in. So what do you do with the rest of the pig that you don't eat straight away? We might smoke it, or salt it, or dry it out like this. (Hauk eats dried beef jerky)
    • Vegetables? Yep, lots of veg. But which ones didn't they have? Potatoes- no chips, not crisps! Tomatoes. Orange carrots. CHOCOLATE! Oh no!
    • Bread. (display and explanation of flour mill)
  • So, with all that food, they must have needed to go to the loo. Have you see a Viking loo? (take them to a loo and show them it)

Playing games

Liar Dice was played lots, with authenti-pennies and dice carved by Harald. Also Harald carved us a Hnefatafl board, so that was played. On the last day of 2007 we even started getting the public joining in our games, which was a really nice touch. We should have done more of that earlier.
In 2008 it was too cold to do much game-playing!

Talking about Weapons

We had all the weapons in a cart, and followed a script whereby we got kids and dressed them up in the gear to be a Viking or Saxon warrior- cue parents taking photos of them with camera phones. We obviously kept a close eye on any weapons we gave out, and told people to be careful!

  • Do you want to be a Viking or a Saxon? Do you want to be one of the invading Vikings, or one of the Saxons who were here before?
      • Viking? Good choice! This helmet with the big mask is a Viking helmet. Look at it, it's made from four panels joined together by bands and with the mask added. Why's it got the mask? Yes, it gives protection. Also, it makes you look scary!
      • Saxon? Right, in that case you can wear this spanglehelm. It's made from panels like the Viking one, but it's more of a cone shape. This means blows bounce off easier!
    • Now, everyone would be armed with a spear. It's cheap, and effective- look what happens if Hauk tries to attack me with a sword (stab Hauk before he gets close)!
    • Every free man- but not slaves!- would also have a knife, which we call a saex. It's like a big kitchen knife, and you'd use it all the time for cutting up food. You could also use it in battle, but it's not very good.
  • If you were a bit richer, like this Saxon is, you might have a langsaex. This is expensive, and shows you are a professional fighter- you can afford to invest money in a big weapon. It's basically a machete, big and heavy with a single cutting edge.
  • A sword is even more expensive, because it has two cutting edges and they need the best metal. It's a real status symbol, shows you are very rich like this Viking here.
  • The very best weapon is the daneaxe, a large two-handed axe. This was used by the best Saxons at Hastings against the Normans, and also by the best Viking warriors. Do you know who the best Viking warriors were? They were called the berserkers, and it's from their name that we get the word berserk. The daneaxe isn't a good weapon when you're surrounded by friends, as it's easy to hit them by mistake. Which is why the berserkers would go and attack people all on their own! So, first they'd have to get very angry- otherwise they'd be too scared to charge a whole shieldwall. Who can shout the loudest? We need your very best ROAR! Imagine the enemy are teachers! ROAR! Giving you homework! ROAR! Or telling you to tidy your room! ROAR! Excellent! Now you'd be given an axe, and sent running at the enemy! With this axe, you could easily break shields, cut people and their horses in half, and generally wreck mayhem on the line. Then the other vikings would come after you, and they could easily kill anyone still alive because they weren't protected by the shieldwall any more.

Friday-Monday: Evenings

Once the public had gone we were allowed to fight and drink and be inauthentic. So we had fights just outside the village gate, and took photos, and so on.

We also cooked meals. These included more stews, kebabs, and potatoes-wrapped-in-foil. We discovered wrapped potatoes work well cut in half (speed it up a bit, still just as tasty, more easily shareable), and that Arinbjorn has a bottomless appetite. Potatoes aren't authentic though, sadly…

And, of course, we stayed up late into the night singing rude songs and drinking cider. That's the society I joined!


It's been extremely cold at night each time we've visited- we advise you to bring thick sleeping bags, duvets, charcoal for fires and a partner.


Tuesday was a blur of packing and putting packing into minibuses and putting too many people into minibuses and lots of driving. Ingibjorg was a star.

What should we change?

There was some debate as to the best time of year to go. Easter Bank Holiday is good because it's during the holidays, and gives Freshers an early goal for kit, and lots of people visit Murton Park. But it's bad because it's Easter, and some people do church and stuff. And sometimes it snows…
Oh well. For now, we're booked in to do every Easter for the foreseeable future. We could do a second, mid-year trip. If anyone fancies organising it!

If anyone has any abilities at changing the weather, we'd appreciate it to not snow next time. 2008 with snow was very pretty, but freezing cold!

How Much Is It?

These are the main costs:

  • Everyone pays £5 towards wood for fires & so on
  • Food costs between £20 and £30
  • Transport costs (we generally have a minibus from Oxford, which works out at about £50 return, or you can get a train, or beg a lift from someone with a car)
  • Booze- bring your own from Thursday night. On other nights, supermarket runs can be arranged. This all adds up, tho…
  • Sometimes merchants visit and sell us things. So bring more money if you want to buy shinies!
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