Friday, 10 May 2013

France - Spring in the Auvergne

Early Purple Orchids growing beside the road
I have just taken a week's French leave - away from the bare meadows of Merioneth with the trees  showing hardly a hint of green, to the lush countryside of the Auvergne in Central France.
The weather wasn't that much better though and we had violent thunderstorms the second day I was there - just as we did in Morocco in March!

Le [petit] ruisseau - le Grand Vallon!

The little river that runs by the house turned into a raging torrent with great quantities of soil washing down and being left in sandy shoals as the water receded.  It is interesting to speculate how much fertility has been lost with the change in land use from pasture to intensive wheat and rape cultivation.  But the unimproved meadows were still wonderful with lots of Meadow Saxifrage, Saxifraga granulata with Myosotis ramosissima and M. discolor, Early and Changing Forget-me-nots, growing together.

Saxifraga granulata
The crater of the Puy Pariou

 One day we took our Dutch guests and their two children to the Chaîne des Puys, an area of extinct volcanoes near Clermont Ferrand.  In the morning we walked up through Hazel coppice and beech woods to the top of the Puy Pariou through sheets of Wood Anemones and Cowslips while higher up  there were Oxlips, Primula elatior, too. But the prize for me was these Herb Paris, Paris quadrifolia plants, just coming into flower.

In the afternoon we took this little train to the top  of the Puy de Dome [1464m] where there is a famous observatory manned by military and civil personnel, but closed to the public since a bomb exploded there in 1976.  It was bitterly cold!  We donned every scrap of warm clothing we had with us as we tried to find somewhere sheltered from the biting north wind.

The weather was lovely again as I left France, but it didn't last long and as I write I wonder whether the plants know it's almost summer and that we will be at Caerdeon in three weeks' time!

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