In the mid year when winter is far behind, only occasionally popping back for a storm, our world has become a myriad of greens says author Susan Keefe at her home in the Pays de Loire…
With their winter bareness far behind, the forests range in tones as the dark Pine trees vie with the silvery barked Silver Birch and of course the magnificent Sweet Chestnut trees which are a vital crop in this area, and many others in France. The enormous log lorries can be seen trundling down the forest tracks collecting their mighty trunks which will be used for many things, and of course everywhere are the branches and smaller trees which have been cut into metre lengths, and stacked neatly ready to be used, or sold once they have seasoned.
The roadside verges have some beautiful flowers in them. The Primroses, Cowslips, and Lily of the Valley are going over, however, as their colours fade, the tones change from the white and yellows of spring to the purples, blues, pinks and whites as they are replaced by a wide variety of Orchids, Bluebells, Pulmonaria and wild Aquilegia.
Where we live is a very important apple growing region, and for weeks now the orchards have been a beautiful shade of pink, and the scent is gorgeous, no wonder the bees’ are happy!
Of course, spring is a time of birth and I never tire from seeing the baby Hedgehogs wandering around. We don’t have Rabbits in our valley, I think it may be because we have very shallow soil on a tuffeau rock base, as they live quite happily a couple of kilometres away and I can think of no other reasonable explanation. The Foxes are very vocal as are the Owls, however the Deer have slipped quietly into the undergrowth to bring up their young.
Our neighbour’s lake is a pleasure to walk around. Not only is it beautifully kept but occasionally I see a Kingfisher, flitting quickly away. These may be very shy birds, but even the most amateurish of ornithologists can recognise their striking colours. The Herons are frequent visitors and not welcomed, as they quickly decimate the fish population. Herons are extremely common here, with all the waterways, water meadows and streams, not to mention the large reservoirs for farming and alongside the auto routes.
In our yard, the Swallows are busily catching insects on the wing to feed to their young in barn, and if the kitchen door is open, then the window opposite has to be opened too, as they frequently pass through. The blackbirds are singing wonderfully, all day long it seems, and at the moment there are a lot of Goldfinches about, long with our resident Chaffinches and Black Redstarts.
All day long, our world is filled with bird song and then, as the day draws to an end, the evening cacophony starts with the mole crickets and reaches a crescendo as the frogs in the lake join in too. Honestly, if you closed your eyes, you could be in the Amazon rainforest. France has many beautiful regions and in all of them, the sights and sounds of nature to there to enjoy, for free.
Susan Keefe is an author and book reviewer