I haven’t been on this forum for ages and ages but I dipped in yesterday for the first time in in a very long time. I made a few replies to a new member asking about life in Limousin.
It got me to thinking about the main reason that bought us (and I expect many) to France in and that was to live somewhere with a better (i.e. reliable) year round climate for outdoor living/activities/lifestyle. Previously we had lived temporarily in North Kent and before that mainly Wales and a bit of Scotland…so we know harsh weather.
Can we talk about the weather…or more specifially the climate!!
When we did our initial research we decided that we did not want to be in the hot and dry south or indeed in the mild north (Normandy/Brittany) with it’s pretty wet but milder winters.
We initally chose Charente in the south west of France but soon realised that for summer living it was just way, way too hot for us with temperatures in the high thirties (even low forties) and very muggy nights. (Historic climate records showed high twenties).
Our first winter here in 2014-15 was incredible though, with virtually wall to wall sunshine and cold frosty mornings from December through till spring…we thought to ourselves this is pretty different to North Wales…we are up for more of this. That was the last sunny and dry winter 6 years ago!
In 2017 we took the advice of a friend and moved over to the greener and hillier Limousin region in search of altitude. Haute Vienne, in the area east of Eymoutiers. Plateau Millevaches Parc Regional area known for its water, forests, hills and mountains, the north western corner of the Massif Central.
We came to this upland area with the expectation of cooler summers with more frequent rainfall and cold, snowy winters. Neither of those have been our experience!
Our first winter in Nedde in 2017-18 did indeed have a notable cold snap when we had decent snow and some chilling night time and daytime lows. Maximum cold reached was -15 and we lost lots of plants in pots such was the sustained cold and wind chill. However the rest of the winter was very wet, grey and uninspiring.
In early 2018 we moved again to another rental near Chamberet in North Correze, but still within the Plateau Millevaches area. Summer 2018 was stonking hot, as was summer 2019 with a fierce drought and water restrictions. 2020 was also very hot although the heat did not arrive till mid June and we also had a freakish warm and sunny February. Seems hot summers are fairly nailed on this far south.
What has been most noticeable to us however is that the seems to be an acute difference between the climate we expected from long term records and the actual climate we are now experiencing. Winter 2019-20 was one of the wettest, dullest and mildest on record here and across much of Northern Europe. This winter has been pretty mild too (limited frosts) but with a minor snowy outbreaks (White Xmas).
However it seems it is not unusual for it to go two or three weeks here without actually seeing the sun at all in the winter months…maybe not what one would expect this far south and only 280 odd kilometres from the Med coast.
I know many people looking to move to France mention a better climate as a primary motivating factor for the move but I actually think it is becoming so changeable, extreme and unpredictable across most of the country. We were hoping for cooler summers by living at altitiude in the Massif Central but it has still pushed the high thirties regularly even here on the Plateau. The cold, sunny and snowy winters seem to be a thing of the past …or at least they are extremely fleeting.
I know we should expect decent rainfall living in the green and hilly, cow farming Limousin, but it seems to go from extreme drought to extreme “rainy season” rather than year round regular rainfall as the historical climate records show.
Lately it has rained virtually every day for weeks and weeks on end. I know it is not just confined to the Plateau Millevaches because I am in gardening/weather discussion groups on Facebook and see the posts of people’s flooded gardens and moans about the weather.
I realise by choice that we live in one of the more extreme climate areas of France (Massif Central), but for me the climate here is much more extreme than lowland UK, despite being so much further south. Escaping the extreme summer heat hasn’t really worked for us despite choosing to live at altitude (810 metres). The downside for us seems to be wet and dismal modern winters.
I know all about climate change having studied for an environmental degree in the 1990s. Maybe France is losing it’s perceived “reliable climate” south of the Loire? Who knows, but 5 grey and wet winters out of six makes me think so.
I wonder what people’s take on it is? What’s the climate actually like in your part of France…better or worse than you expected? I suppose such a huge and geographically diverse country as France has many microclimates. Did you pick a good one?