Having had the very lengthy period without rain we have now been having considerable amounts of it since the end of September. That has been a great relief, although we could now ask the rain (and gales) to 'back off' a bit, as we have not had much of the wonderfully warm, sunshine-suffused October we often get. But the rain has had quite a job to do - look at the effects of the drought on this cherry tree:
Now, just as I'm writing this there's a robin that has just landed on one of the ancient apple trees that sit along the edge of the south side of the garden, on to which my writing desk looks out. The apples are pretty small and scarred, due to lack of water, but the robin doesn't seem to care:
- and walking around the garden one can see how the moisture has enabled the Autumn colours to flourish, rather than leaves just dropping away with dryness; and some of the roses have managed a second or third bloom; the pond has started to refill (and the carp have started making an appearance at the water's surface, instead of remaining in the couple of metres depth at the centre); and the ornamental grasses have been bold enough to push up some green stalks:
- and with the high humidity the Autumn fungi is starting to make its usual appearance, always fascinating with its colour and intricate tracery:
And what of the Autumn wildlife? It has certainly not been easy going for much of the wildlife. The prolonged drought made life very difficult for some bird species and for small mammals. And then the change from the extreme heat to wet and cold conditions (there was a temperature drop of over 20C+ in some places) at the end of September meant that swallows, who had delayed their usual migration time here in South West France, struggled to find enough to eat, as they got cold and lost energy for flying and became highly susceptible to hypothermia and starvation (for the insect population, which the swallows feed on, dropped considerably in the drought). Also, when the swallows did gather for migration they were blocked from their usual navigation by heavy, continuous rain. This led the French bird protection association, La Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) in the Lot in southwest France, to launch a campaign to save swallows, after many hundreds had been found dead. We are hoping that the swallows will return here next year, and we'll report on that in a April/May Blog post.
Somewhat curiously Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux has also launched 'Mission Hérisson' (Mission Hedgehog), encouraging individuals to observe and help hedgehogs in their outdoor space in a bid to better the protect the animal and to raise awareness of its plight - as in the UK the hedgehog population in France has reduced significantly in the last five years. The campaign requests that people place special “tunnels” for five consecutive nights in a quiet area in their garden or secluded outside space, and paint the floor of the tunnel with a special kind of charcoal-based “ink”. The next morning, if any hedgehogs (or any animals, such as squirrels) have made a visit, their inky footprints will be visible on the cardboard. One can then identify the species on the LPO website, and submit the data each day to help support the campaign.
The very warm summer weather seems to have encouraged the frogs to enter a second reproduction cycle - and so not only is there a huge population of frogs in the big pond, but the swimming pool (salt water, so quite 'benign') has once again proved an attraction - some sort of 'vacation spot' for frogs tired of the overcrowded 'urban pond':
And what of the future? The Summer has seen a sharp decline in foreign visitors to the region, although there has been a considerable increase in French visitors exploring other areas of their own country. Over the Summer we welcomed some return visitors - guests who have visited 'Nichoir' two or three times before. But we took the decision to close over August and the Autumn as things were getting just too complicated and we needed time to assess the realities for next year and beyond. So, we have decided to focus on our 'Garden Studio' facilities, for couples and families with young children. The details for this are already on the Sawdays website and our website will be updated shortly and 'open for reservations' for 2021. We greatly look forward to welcoming established and new guests.