From the Atlantic coast to the Marais Poitevin and beyond to the Mervent-Vouvant forest, the South Vendée is as relaxing as it is inviting to those who visit. Everywhere nature’s exuberance captivates and enthrals with its sheer diversity, it is genuinely a nature lover’s paradise. Water, the symbol of wealth and purity is the key to this intriguing natural playground, The River Lay and its tributaries cross the bocage on their slow meandering journey to the sea leaving behind green and pleasant valleys with their farms, orchards and vineyards before crossing and draining the Marais Poitevin (marais dessèche). The river Vendée has its source in the Haut Bocage and is joined by the River Mere in the heart of the Mervent forest where barrages have dammed the river. This has created a necklace of magical and picturesque lakes which are a natural playground for walkers, bikers, and all manner of sports and recreation. The river then makes its way through Fontenay le Comte before lazily crossing the plaine (Lucon-Fontenay Prairie) and joining the river Sèvre Niortaise in the Marais Poitevin.
The Marais Poitevin, a large area of marshland which extends past the boundaries of the Vendée, is the second largest area of wetlands in France. Water is an important key to this region and it is at its most dynamic on the Marais Poitevin. Divided into 3 main types each with their own character and charm, the Marais Poitevin is a unique and peaceful area of the Vendée. By far the most visited and most talked about is the area of the Marais Mouille, the wet marshes which are more commonly referred to as the Green Venice or Venice Vert. A labyrinth of tree lined canals covered with green duckweed and punctuated by pretty white houses with coloured shutters makes this an area of picture postcard beauty and tranquillity.
The Towns and villages of the Region have their feet solidly planted in history. The Renaissance town of Fontenay-le-Comte was the former capital of the Bas Poitou, the name of the pre-revolution Vendée, and is its architectural jewel . Other notable towns and villages are Luçon, with its Cathedral, the villages of Mervent and Vouvant with their ancient ruined castles and Maillezais and Nieul-sur-l'Autise with their abbeys and Royal connections. From all of these places came legendary and illustrious men who shaped not only the land but the very fabric of Vendéen life.
Mervent-Vouvant just 12kms from Fontenay-le-comte is a haven of tranquillity for both people and wildlife alike. The damming of the Rivers Mere and Vendée have created lakes which are a paradise for fishermen, water sports enthusiasts and those who just like to be near water. The forest has been laid out with over 200 kilometres of well marked footpaths and offers some of the best walks to be found anywhere in the Vendée. The local tourist office has plans of all of these walks together with distances and their difficulty, full details of the forest Mervent Forest.
The Plaine (Lucon-Fontenay Prairie) This natural grass land was the ancient coastal plain in the time before the Marais Poitevin started to silt up. Today, during the summer months it is a land where golden wheat, tall corn and yellow sunflowers dominate the view as far as the eye can see. Further information, Plaine.
Wines of the South Vendée. The wines of the south Vendée are grown in four distinct areas mainly the Fiefs Vendéen label, athough some Vin du Pays is also grown. The main areas are Mareuil-sur-Lay, Vix, Pissotte and around Chantonnay. To find out more about these wines and to discover the wine route view our wines of the Vendée.