Snowdrop Time at Beaulieu

We walked along a woodland path strewn with crispy dead leaves. A carpet of green and white spread out before us. The famous snowdrops at the Abbaye de Beaulieu cover the banks of the River Seye in mid-February. These delicate-looking flowers, nodding in the breeze, are in fact tough and resilient. Individually, they look unexceptional. Collectively, they are quite a sight as they spread for a couple of kilometres along the river.

Tree shadows fell in zebra stripes across the path. They reminded me of Camille Pissarro’s painting Gelée Blanche, Hoar Frost (1873: Paris, Musée d’Orsay).

Snowdrops are perces-neige in French – snow piercers. An apt name, since they often come through when the snow still blankets the ground. Legend says that Adam and Eve, banished from the Garden of Eden, wandered naked in a barren, wintry landscape. A snowstorm started, and a frozen Eve began to cry. An angel took pity on her and turned her tears and the snowflakes into snowdrops. A warm coat might have been more welcome, but let’s not interfere with mythology.

Lovely spot

Beaulieu (sometimes known as Belloc) means lovely place. Sheltered in the wooded Seye Valley, the Abbaye de Beaulieu, a few minutes’ drive from us, certainly fits that description. Those Cistercian monks knew where to site their monasteries. The river runs alongside the abbey and its grounds. It’s a peaceful spot, made for contemplation.

The 12th-century abbey reopened to the public last year after a €10m restoration programme. It’s a centre of modern and contemporary art, which I think is an inspired combination of ancient and modern. The beautiful abbey church is a marvel of Cistercian purity. You can find out more about the place in the posts I’ve linked to at the bottom of the page.

To enter the abbey and its precincts and see the art collection, you have to pay a fee of €6. Having done this several times last year, we took instead the path behind the abbey, which you can access from the lay-by on the Verfeil side. This leads you through woodland alongside the abbey. You get tantalising views of it through the trees.

Coming out behind the abbey church, you cross the river by a wooden footbridge and continue through water meadows along the Seye. Fortunately, it has hardly rained in February, otherwise it would have been a quagmire. The snowdrops accompany you all the way.

Metal sculpture in the meadow by the abbey church

Babbling brook

We doubled back towards the abbey, beside a small tributary of the Seye. Before going back to the car, we stood on a footbridge and watched the river purling beneath us. The water was clear as gin or perhaps more appropriately here, eau de vie de prune.

I love the sound of running water and always wanted to live by a stream. However, what looks like a well-tempered brook in the summer can turn into a raging torrent in the winter. When we looked for a house here nearly 26 years ago, we visited several mill houses, but we quickly realised they might be dark and dank in the winter. The house we bought then and still live in is on a plateau with no streams.

We played Poohsticks* on the bridge. For those who have no idea what this is, you drop sticks into the water and rush to the other side of the bridge. Whoever’s stick emerges first is the winner. We are easily entertained.

[*Mentioned in The House at Pooh Corner, one of the Winnie-the-Pooh children’s books by A. A. Milne.] 

In fact, we waited for about 20 seconds for our sticks to reappear, since the Seye was running slowly for lack of rain. The SF, who does that sort of thing, calculated that the flow was 300 litres/second. This is by no means sluggish, but it’s probably slower than normal for February.

If you live in the region or are visiting and want to see the snowdrops, go now. They won’t last long. If you miss them, the walk behind the abbey is lovely at any season.

You might like these posts about Beaulieu:

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2023. All rights reserved.


  1. Snap! My wife and I visited National Trust’s Kingston Lacy gardens near Blandford in Dorset recently. The snowdrops are out already – and will be at their very best in a week or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is the walk you describe suitable/permitted with dogs? I’m desperately trying to find good safe walks for the poodles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No reason why you can’t take well-behaved dogs there. The walk goes alongside the abbey and its grounds but not within its precincts. The road that goes past the abbey is fairly busy, but not a problem unless your dogs are in the habit of running off. I’ll have a look at my walking books for the region and see about dog-friendly walks and let you know. There are a lot of websites that list walking trails, too, and some of them have info about dogs. Google Visorando, which lists loads of walks.


        • Hi Lorna and Vanessa,
          Indeed I just double-checked, and it seems that in Visorando we do not have any walks around Blandford yet. However in Dorset there is a few, not a lot but a few. 😬
          Visorando is a participative library of walks. Walkers like you and I share their best walks, including a detailed step-by-step description for others to explore the most safely possible and get new walking ideas. So feel free to contribute and share walks in your areas so people can follow your steps. 😉 🙌🏼 I look forward to reading you soon.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you for your comment, Delphine. In fact, it was another person who commented about Blandford in Dorset. Lorna lives in Aveyron.

            I often use Visorando to find new walks in our area or further afield. The walk at L’Abbaye de Beaulieu (Ginals 82) is only a couple of kilometres and possibly not of great interest to serious walkers. However, there are others in the area that don’t appear on Visorando, as far as I know. I will see what I can do.


    • Thank you, Sel. It’s so kind of you to say that. As a visual artist, I am pretty useless, but I am very keen on art, so perhaps that has transferred itself to my writing in a small way. ☺️


    • Thank you, Catherine. I’m pleased you think so. I’m very fond of Beaulieu. We must have visited about four times after it reopened last year! You must know it even better than me. We consider ourselves lucky to have such a wonderful place within a few minutes’ drive.


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