Spring has arrived for real in the Gorges and temperatures seem to be consistently 2-5deg. higher down here (the village is about 250m above sea level). And it seems the warmer temperatures have encouraged les Spontourcois to grab their spades and get gardening…
This village is small and sleepy, set in the ‘foothills’ of the mighty Gorges de la Dordogne. The village’s narrow lanes and paths follow a more linear form, following the contours of the riverbank and the steep hill behind. Space for veggie gardens next to the house is tight, so many of the older houses here have their gardens and veg plots across the street. Which is very French – and no-one in the French countryside thinks having your garden or farmyard on the other side of the lane is at all unusual. Even a few hundred metres down the road seems to be quite common – we looked at several properties that had their main piece of garden or land in another part of the village entirely!
As it is, the house we bought currently requires us to go out of the front door and down the slipway to get to our back garden – a tad tedious when letting the dog out for morning or bedtime pees! The neighbours are getting used to seeing me in my coat and pyjamas most mornings!
So this tradition of separate gardens forces all the resident gardeners to leave their houses and mingle with neighbours to work on their veggie gardens – something that seems to be taken seriously in this village. It’s a very sociable activity, rarely done behind high hedges, walls or fences, so everyone can see what you’re doing.
Sunny evenings here see small groups of neighbours chatting and conferring over low garden walls, giving advice and having a good look at the ‘competition’. Our next-door-neighbour Monsieur ‘M’ has a very large garden plot at the back of his house and he took great delight in explaining how he had acquired some really good cow manure for his veg bed. No doubt he is ‘in it to win it’ in terms of a productive veggie harvest later in the year.
This is a sweet little garden arbour – only a few steps across the lane from the house it belongs to. I haven’t seen anyone sitting here yet though.
The village is so quiet and car-free, it’s a real pleasure to wander through the lanes every day with the dog off his lead, just looking into these pretty gardens and immaculate potagers.
I just hope the neighbours don’t mind me taking all the photos…!