Seven Signs of Spring in SW France

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

Spring has taken a long time to arrive this year. Everything is coming out very late and the weather – up till this weekend – has generally been cooler than normal. However, we saw incontrovertible signs that spring is here this weekend, even if it is a bit spasmodic.

The past week has been very busy, not least with le choeur de Parisot’s first concert this year at Limogne (Lot) on Friday – more of that in a later post – hence the erratic blogging rate this week. In the background, SW France has been tuning up for spring again. It had to arrive sometime but everybody wondered when.

Migratory birds

The cuckoo arrived here on 12th April this year. This is late, according to our statistics. I wouldn’t have blamed it if it had decided to stay in Africa. Now it’s here, it’s doing the circuit of the area, cuckooing madly from all points of the compass. Hoopoes arrived a couple of weeks ago and we have seen them several times. No nightingales yet, though.

Native birds

Sparrows, blue tits and great tits nest in the walls of our house every year. We have been watching a pair of blue tits assiduously carrying nesting materials into a hole in the house wall. Unfortunately, the fledglings are not usually streetwise enough to escape the jaws of our cat. But we noticed a particularly high concentration of blue tits and great tits on the fat balls we put out during the winter, so perhaps this will be their year.

The sparrows' 'Des Res' with its own balcony

The sparrows’ ‘Des Res’ with its own balcony

Spring flowers

Since it’s been so wet, the wild flowers are lovely this year. We had more violets, daisies and cowslips on the lawn than we have seen for many years. You can almost see the grass growing and the trees burgeoning. The weeds are doing the same, alas.

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Seasonal produce

I’ve seen asparagus flown in from Peru and strawberries juggernauted from Spain in Leclerc supermarket. But what’s produced locally is so much better – and kinder to the environment. For the past week, we have been enjoying locally-grown asparagus and the sweetest strawberries you ever tasted – gariguettes – all available at our local market. They are so much better for having only a short season.

The garden wakes up

With a vengeance, unfortunately. When we have a wet spring, like this one, we have to take every opportunity to get out and suppress nature before it gets too unruly. This weekend we had wall-to-wall sunshine – a rare event this year – and you can almost see the grass grow. I can barely type since I spent three hours today strimming, having already done a couple of hours of mowing.

The first cut of the year is always the worst since the grass is damp and juicy. It will be like that until mid-end June, when it will turn brown. But this really is la belle saison – if you have time to stop and look.

Plum blossom

Plum blossom

The swimming pool goes into summer mode

With a certain trepidation, we removed the winter cover yesterday afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised by the clearness of the water. The bottom of the pool was a bit green (when is it not?) and covered in strange squiggles this year. We found only one decomposing frog that had somehow managed to squeeze itself under the straight jacket of the winter cover. The SF spent the whole day cleaning the pool.

I hope we will get a lot of use out of it this year. A swimming pool was close to the top of our list of priorities when we bought a house in France; now it’s dropped off the bottom.

First barbecue of the year

Après l’effort, c’est le reconfort and we felt we deserved our first barbecue this evening. Last year we had one on 25th March. No chance of that this year. It was a little breezy this evening but still warm.

As we ate our sausages, a blackbird serenaded us from the treetops and we felt that now, maybe, spring really had arrived.

This year's violets

This year’s violets

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Seven Signs of Spring in SW France

  1. Pingback: Can Spring be far Behind? | Life on La Lune

  2. Sue Whatmough says:

    Spring is here in Hautes Pyrénées too. The trees are taking their turns to produce new leaves and, as you say, the wild flowers are wonderful. The weather has been amazing for the last few days and I’ve been sorting out flower beds and pots. Leaf has rotovated (spelling?) the veg. patch ready to plant out seedlings as soon as they’re ready. It’s all systems go. Enjoy the lovely weather.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It is nice to see it all happening, isn’t it? Here, you can almost see the grass grow and the leaves unfurl. It’s a lot of work at this time of year but it feels positive.

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  3. Anita says:

    Each year I am always stunned by the miracle of spring. It is my favourite season. You are right about the blossom, it is beautiful. Oh and the asparagus – we had some locally produced asparagus for lunch the other day and it was delicious. When I first came here I was mildly annoyed that I could not buy the produce that I wanted when I wanted. Now we always try and eat seasonal produce – so much tastier. I’m already looking forward to the cherry season.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It is a lovely season here – provided the weather is fine! To start with, I was also annoyed that I couldn’t get all the produce I wanted at any time of year, as of course we could in the UK. Gradually, I have come to realise that it’s much better to eat produce in season – for the environment, for the taste etc. We don’t have cherry trees but benefit from those of friends who always have wonderful cherries. In Paris, 11 years ago in April we saw cherries from Provence at Fauchon (a very upmarket épicerie) for an eye-watering price.

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  4. Pingback: Signs of Spring in SW France

  5. You’re about a fornight ahead of us plant wise I’d guess, but our swallows are back and I also heard the first cuckoo on the 12th. I think we’ll take a peek at our pool today. I imagine we’ll have rather more than one frog in ours – it seems to be a magnet for them round here. Them and the worms. Ugh!

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    • nessafrance says:

      I haven’t seen any swallows yet. Other people in the area say they heard the cuckoo long before we did. Now it’s here, it’s making up for lost time. I was surprised not to have more frogs in the pool. But, yes, there are the usual worms and lots of unidentifiable squiggles that just disintegrate.

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  6. MELewis says:

    Great post about spring in France! I live in the Rhone-Alpes region and the cherry blossoms are just starting to come out…. Every year it fills my heart with joy to see them (along with the forsythia). This year more than ever as the winter has felt interminable!

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    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks! I have to admit I cheated a little and the cherry blossom photo is from last year. Having said that, the blossom is out here now, owing to all the rain, and it’s magnificent this year. Winter has been pretty awful here too. We’ve been here 16 years and have not experienced such a gloomy few months.

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