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Thursday, 26 May 2011

France: farming and cycling

As we drive and cycle through lowland France, it is agriculture that dominates the landscape. The importance of farming to France and the French is shown clearly on our excellent Michelin road atlas of France, at 1:200,000 this is a good scale showing all the country lanes; annoyingly it doesn’t show campsites, but it does mark silos! It is no surprise that farmer-power predominates in France, the whole country is involved in growing things, we pass fields of cereals, vegetables and of course grapes, neat allotments and gardens, even the industry we see is often agricultural-related; food and wine production and agricultural services etc. Other industrial sites we observe are also close to the land, such as quarrying and cement works. Although the fields of cereals and vegetables are often vast and we assume every weed is sprayed to within an inch of its life, the verges are full of wild flowers; at this time of year poppies and cornflowers provide so much colour, cycling along the quiet lanes between these field is never boring and what I really want to do is throw down a metre square quadrant and spend an hour recording the different species (you can take the woman out of geography, but you can never take the geography out of the woman).

Peaceful lanes with a small village every four or five kilometres is dream cycling for us; as well as the wild flowers, we enjoy spotting the Harriers (Hen or Montagu’s?) overhead, dodging the butterflies and stopping in small cafes for coffee.

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