The sounds of the forest.
Before we bought our first house in France we decided to take a walk above the property. We had both agreed that we were looking for a peaceful environment above everything else, but we knew that a motorway , 'la route du soleil,' ran close by. The last thing we wanted was to hear the constant drone of traffic. So we headed up into the forest to check it out. I would like to tell you that all we could hear was silence, but that was not the case. For sure enough, when we both concentrated , we could hear a distant drone. Was it the motorway, we asked ourselves anxiously? As we walked down to the lower gates, the tops of the trees were swaying slightly, as the wind passed through them. "It's the wind making that noise," we both announced in unison. And for sure , it was the wind that we had heard , not traffic. Whilst we know that cars and lorries are constantly heading towards the Mediterranean, not many minutes from here, in fact we never hear them. Before the motorway was actually constructed, there were plans for the route to pass much closer to our house. But then, if it had done, we would not have fallen in love with this place, and made it our home.
The wind has proved to be our constant companion however. It varies from an almost inaudible murmur, in which the trees seem to be quietly communicating with each other, to a full blown roar as the mistral and tramontane winds pass through. As we gaze past the oaks into the pine forest above us we love to listen to 'La Symphonie du Vent.'
The forest hides a multitude of birds. In spring thrushes, blackbirds, finches warblers, and others fill the woods with birdsong, but grow quieter as they find their mates. A tapping sound reveals the presence of smaller woodpeckers. Whilst the large black woodpecker indicates his presence with a sharp call , the green woodpecker likes to share a joke with us , filling the woods with mocking laughter. At night nothing is more special than to hear the tawny owl calling out in the moonlight.
And of course while there are many, many other creatures out there who remain silent, like the cautious deer, or the timid hare, others like cicadas and crickets proudly announce themselves. The male fox breaks the stillness with his sharp eery bark, while a seagull like cry tells us that the snake eagle is patrolling from above. These sounds are entrancing , and contribute to our peaceful paradise.
Alas, our haven of peace cannot remain inviolate. While we savour the gentle sounds of the forest, and the feelings of tranquillity and contentment that this brings, an ugly presence threatens the calm. For on Saturdays and Sundays the motards( or motorcyclists ) arrive to follow the hairpin bends that wind their way through our beautiful valley to the top of the mountain. As they pass by the mairie, speed bumps force them to drop their speed. But then as they leave the village they open up full throttle and roar along the valley floor below us. We close our eyes in despair, and follow their noisy progress as they begin to navigate the bends, climbing ever upwards at an alarming speed. There are no traffic controls. However, we do hold a small inkling of hope. From next year, motorcycles will be required to undergo an M.O.T. or contrôle technique, so noisy illegal engine modifications should be a thing of the past. "En principe!" we say with a large degree of cynicism. There would seem to be many objections to this. Motards are "en colere" which means that they are very angry! But then, so are we, at the noise that they make! All electric vehicles can't come a moment too soon.