The Marais poitevin
A remnant of the former Gulf of Poitou, the Marais Poitevin is one of the most beautiful man-made landscapes there is. A stone's throw from the marshes are picturesque villages nestled around the Mervent-Vouvant forest.
The Marais Poitevin is made up of 112, 000 hectares of intertwined canals and countryside. It is divided into three zones: the coastal zone, the dry marsh which is used for agriculture and the wet marsh also known as "Green Venice" (an area which floods in winter).
There are plenty of jettys from where you can hire traditional boats to explore Green Venice's waterways. In the shade of pollarded Ash trees, barques (traditional flat-bottomed boats) complete with boatmen, if you so wish, will take you to the majestic doors of the Marais abbey in Maillezais.
Ancient communities, such as those near to Poiré sur Velluire, are also part of this fascinating landscape home to geese, cattle and horses. The Pointe d'Arçay, the departmental wildlife reserves of the island of Charouin in Vix and Nalliers/Mouzeuil, and the Saint-Denis du Payré nature reserve, offer captivating views of migrating birds.
The bay of Aiguillon, is the point where the canals and rivers meet and where draining work has taken place, it is a key element in the ecological balance of the Marais Poitevin. The landscape changes with the rhythm of daily tides, from a bay dominated by extensive mud flats and salt marshes at low tide to almost total immersion of the bay at high tide limited only by man-made dykes.
The bay is one of the most important sites in France for migrating birds, identified as a site for overwintering and a stopover for migrating birds of national and international importance.
Unearth the treasures on the edge of the Marais
On the doorstep of the Marais Poitevin, you will be amazed to discover the Royal Abbey of Nieul sur l'Autise and its famous Roman cloister, a medieval fortress in Vouvant at the heart of the Mervent-Vouvant forest, the fascinating mining village of Faymoreau and the pretty Renaissance village of Foussais-Payré.
Not only is it a friendly place, it is also one of the "Petites Cités de Caractère" (towns or villages with outstanding architecture and heritage), and somewhere you may want to linger.
Marais Poitevin jettys:
>> Damvix jetty
>> Maillezais Abbey jetty
>> Petit Port Sauvage jetty in Maillezais
>> Gué de Velluire jetty
>> The Autize jetty in Saint Sigismond
>> The Venise Verte jetty in Mazeau
>> Capucines jetty in Maillé
Marais Poitevin is the second largest wetland in France, second only to the Camargue, and the fifth largest in Europe. It is an exceptional area full of natural and cultural riches and was classified as a "Grand Site de France" in 2010.