Rural France is not full of peace and tranquility as you might have imagined.
In fact an increasingly bitter battle is brewing over the “sounds and smells” of the French countryside which is pitching farmers and those who have grown up in small villages against so-called “neo-rural”, city dwellers who move to La France Profonde in search of peace only to find the noise of frogs, crickets and roosters keep them up at night.
They are being blamed for a number of rising complaints in recent months that have seen rows over noisy cockerels on the picturesque island of Oleron off France's western coast, disputes over croacking frogs in Dordogne and most recently a bitter tête-a-tête over crickets in the same département.
That's not to mention complaints being lodged by tourists about the sound of church bells, farm machinery and even noisy petanque players.
One French mayor responded by putting up a sign at the entrance of the village sarcastically warning holidaymakers to “enter at your own peril” because of the sounds that await them including chickens, church bells, cows and tractors.
Cloches qui sonnent, chant du coq… Le maire met en garde les touristes à l’entrée du village
À Saint-André-de-Valborgne, dans les Cévennes, le maire a installé des panneaux dans son village, pour mettre en garde les touristes contre le bruit des cloches et le chant du coq. pic.twitter.com/OElUd0rlxV
— Philippe TILLOY ✌️️ (@tilloys) July 9, 2019
While the mayor was having fun a serious debate has been raging and it's reached the French parliament.
Right-wing Les Républicains MP Pierre Morel-A-L'Huissier is planning to lodge a proposed law in September to allow each French département to draw up a heritage list of sights and sounds that can be referred to when judges are making decisions about whether noisy frogs or roosters need to be silenced or allowed to express themselves.
The MP blamed “holidaymakers or neo-rurals, who can't cope with these kind of nuisances” for all the complaints.
“Many people come looking for peace and nature in the countryside. But many are incapable of living in a rural area. You can't come to the countryside and think you own it,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.
The MP is not the only rural lawmaker in France fighting to protect the croaks and cock-a-doodle-doos of the countryside.
The mayor of a village in the Gironde département in south west France has requested that the Ministry of Culture issue heritage site protection to rural sounds.
Bruno Dionis du Séjour, mayor of the small village of Gajac which houses 400 people said the move was necessary because of “an accumulation of complaints from people who decide to settle in rural areas and bring cases before the courts in the name of so-called sound attacks”.
He believed the solution is to add rural noises like animals and church bells ringing to the Inventaire du patrimoine culturel immatériel en France, or list of France's intangible cultural heritage.
He said: “If we get this ranking, it will be a guarantee for a farmer not to find himself in front of the judges because his cows moo too much.”
Sociologist Jean Viard from the CNRS think tank said: “It's obvious that today the rural territory doesn't belong to country people anymore. Others who come have the impression that those living in the country don't understand anything.
“There needs to be a culture of co-habitation and negotiation. We are in the process of learning to live with each other in the countryside.”
The sociologist said urbanites are often frustrated by how noisy the countryside can be.
“The main daily complaint of city dwellers is the noise and when they leave the city it's often in search of peace, but at the same time they can't tolerate the noise of the countryside.
“If they don't want the noise of the countryside then don't come here,” he said
“There are dumb people everywhere.”