A beautiful winter’s day – it could be early spring (I hope it isn’t because spring should not start on Valentine’s Day in this part of the world – it could be a harbinger of something much worse!) This was another visit to try and work on the Ironstone Benefice project which I and my good friend David Manley have been working on for two years now. Today I was in the Wreake Valley walking in the footsteps of the vikings.
The name vikings congers up a vision of violent seabound warriors whose blood thirst helped destroy all who came before. As usual this is more Hollywood than reality. Of course the vikings were ruthless warriors but they also settled the lands and lived alongside their Anglo Saxon cousins. We know that the Danish settlers made a home in the Wreake valley because of the places names and also the name of the river. Wreake, in old Danish means meandering river, which is a good description of the Wreake. We can also say how far along the valley the Danes settled because the Wreake enters Melton Mowbray as the Eye, a good pre Roman British name and leaves as the Wreake. All the villages the sit alongside the Wreake have Danish names i.e they all end in by, so we have Asfordby, Kilby, Frisby, Hoby, Rotherby and Rearsby (Rearsby probably marks the end of the Danish settlement as the names further to the south are Anglo Saxon.)
There is little or no archaeology standing above the ground to say where the Danish settlers first set up home but the usual pattern is that they took over areas that were not being farmed by the Anglo Saxon farmers. What is clear though is that the Danish elite must have replaced much of the Anglo Saxon elite in the areas hence the Danish place names.
Apart the photography it was just a pleasure to be out walking in the countryside and cleaning out the lungs for a few hours.