For day 72 of 365 Days Wild I took a trip out to the picturesque Leicestershire village of Bottesford. As an historical settlement, I not only got to indulge my love of nature, but also my love of history.
My parents lived in Bottesford for the first three years of my life, before our rapidly expanding family (I’m number four of six children) meant that a larger property was required and we relocated into Nottinghamshire.
The name, Bottesford originates in Anglo Saxon, meaning “Ford belonging to the botl” (house). As the name suggests, the village is built around a ford over the River Devon (pronounced dee-von). Unfortunately, the ford itself was being used as a paddling pool by a group of toddlers and their mums – just as it was used by my family and I nearly 40 years ago – which meant that I couldn’t really photograph it, but I did enjoy the other views of the river to be found.
The village is close to Belvoir Castle (pronounced bee-ver) – which is home to the Duke and Duchess of Rutland. It is the largest village in the Vale of Belvoir. Bottesford church, which is dedicated to At Mary the Virgin, is known as the Lady of the Vale, and it is the burial place of several of the earls of Rutland. These all date back to pre-1703, when a mausoleum was built at Belvoir after the family’s elevation to a dukedom.
One of theses tombs at Bottesford church is particularly known for its inscription, which attributes the death of two small boys to the ‘wicked practice of sorcerye’ by the Witches of Belvoir.
These witches were the Flower family, a mother, and her two daughters. They lived in Bottesford and were known as a family of local healers who had fallen on hard times. They were accused of using witchcraft to kill the young heirs to the 6th Earl of Rutland. Joan Flower, the mother, died on her way to trial. Her daughters, Margaret and Philippa Flower, were executed in Lincoln Castle. It is unclear where exactly in the village the Flower family lived, though it is known to have been close to the church.
There are a number of old buildings in the village, including the grade ii listed Providence cottage, which dates back to 1723. This is over 100 years after the time of the witches, who died in 1619. It is possible that the home of the Flowers was destroyed after their execution. It is also possible that Providence cottage was built on its site.
The stocks and whipping post are also grade ii listed. The market cross and Fleming’s Bridge are scheduled monuments.
For a short while I stood on the bridge and watched as the water flowed beneath it.
From there we crossed into the churchyard and wandered for a time amongst the graves, wondering at the lives of the people who lived and died here.
When we lived here as children, the angel statue used to terrify us – my older sister in particular. My mum used to walk home from the shops along the path that it stands beside, and Nic would refuse to go anywhere near it. She was eight when we moved away, but still remembers it with a shudder. Knowledge of its creepiness just made the Doctor Who episodes with the Weeping Angels doubly freaky!
I was particularly drawn to this grave that was covered in Calendula flowers, and I spent quite a while photographing a honey bee that was busy amongst the blooms.
It wasn’t until I was at home and able to zoom in on the engraving on the headstone that I was actually able to see the name on it. When we lived in Bottesford in the 1980s there was an older lady who lived nearby who was incredibly helpful to my mum. She used to babysit us, and would always have sweets and cakes to hand. We called her Auntie Peggy. None of us can remember her full name. My mum lost touch with her once we moved away. Looking at the name, age and dates on the stone, it is possible that this is where our old friend lies.
Nature lover that I am, I loved seeing all of the pots of flowers to be found outside buildings around the village, the patches of cobblestones, and the old walls with flowers growing out between the stones.