This time last week I was crossing the Channel from Caen on my way back from the Cerdagne, in the French Pyrenees. My partner has a yen to retire there, he would like to have a pad within easy reach of ‘interesting’ skiing centres. So he rented accomodation for a fortnight with the intention of taking a skiing break and exploring the area.
It was doubtful that I would be able to go due to my Father having been serously ill recently, but he stabilised and was steadily if slowly improving. So at the very last minute, urged on by my children and of course my partner, I decided to go just for a week ….. which became two!
The most noticeable horticultural feature on the outward journey was the amount of mistletoe growing in the trees. Perhaps it was because they were still leafless that it was particularly noticeable or maybe it was because I am interested in Mistletoe, being the proud gardener with some growing on a well established apple tree in my garden. Whatever, the sizeable blobs in loads of the trees were not rookeries, they were thriving mistletoes.
The Cerdagne is significantly further south than here yet Spring was still in its early stages. The temperatures there were similar to those at home although the sun shines more often ( about 300 daya a year) the altitude makes it feel cooler and when it precipitates it tends to be snow ( we had 6" one night!) So the vegetation had a sepia look, but the conifers sported huge cones and loads of them.
The wildlife was intriguing. The owners of our accomodation hang bird feeders from the tree just outside the front door. We kept them topped up and felt privileged to see bramblings, nuthatches, greater spotted woodpecker, loads of greenfinches, chaffinches and the like as well as more sparrows than we would dream of seeing at home. From the road we saw Crag martins, sparrowhawks, juvenile golden eagle, buzzards and on the road an alpine accentor, a Pine-martin and a marmot.
On our second day we drove down from the Pyrennees to Perpignan to collect my daughter and her boyfriend from the airport . At sea-level we drove past fruit orchards where the cherry trees were in full blossom. When we took them back to the airport a fortnight later the cherry blossom was nearly over but other fruit trees had taken over, there was more white blossom in evidence.
On the way back through southern France Spring has begun in earnest but for me the sight of wild daffodils growing on the roadside in the French Black Mountains, north of Carcassonne ,was most exciting. I haven’t seen so many cowslips in flower for many a year and was delighted to see so many ‘garden’ plants growing wild in their natural mountainous environment.
- 6 Apr, 2008
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