Things to do in the Vendée and Deux-Sèvres
Try outdoor activities like horse riding, cycling and fishing
Both the temperate climate of the area and the numerous opportunities to enjoy a healthy, outdoors lifestyle that are provided in this part of France mean that everyone, whatever their level of fitness, can get out in the open air and try either a new or a much loved leisure activity.
For those who like to test their physical endurance, try out the aerial assault course at the Adventure Parc in the Mervent forest. The Parc has courses at different levels of difficulty and provides a stimulating day out for all the family.
In an area with a huge number of lakes, rivers and canals as well as the Atlantic coastline, a wide range of opportunities exist for “messing about” on the water. Whether you enjoy sailing in a dinghy, kayak, catamaran, canoe or even prefer land yachting, you will be able to indulge your passion here.
For those who love nature, the Bird reserve at St Hilaire La Palud covers over eight hectares of wild marshes and offers the opportunity to observe more than 70 different species in their natural habitat.
The Mervent forest and numerous rivers in the area are also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.
The South Vendée and Poitou area is a paradise for walkers. There are hundreds of kilometres of marked walks. Local Mairiés and Tourist information offices generally produce small brochures that contain a map, distance covered, average time taken to complete the walk and things of interest.
The French are also extremely fond of “Rondos”, organised walks which offer great opportunities for exploring the area in detail. The shady toll paths of the Marais Poitevin and the charming forest of Mervent are particularly appealing locations to explore on foot.
The South Vendee and Poitou area is well suited to cycling – the start of the 2011 Tour de France will take place in the Vendee and will no doubt act as an added incentive for us to get on our bikes.
The numerous cycle routes in the area allow you to take time to explore the countryside in detail. There are hundreds of well marked and safe cycle routes both in the Southern Vendee and in the Deux-Sèvres, making it an ideal area for families to explore by bicycle. Leaflets are available from tourist offices and signs indicating “ Les Sentiers Cyclables” are prominent in the region. Many of the villages in the Marais Poitevin and Mervent areas hire bicycles and it is easy to devise your own route using a mixture of marked trails and unmarked stop- offs. The route that takes you along the canal towpaths of the Marais north through the Mervent forest and round the mining village of Faymoreau before heading north via La Chataigneraie and travelling through Cheffois and Reamur takes in some truly inspiring scenery and allows you to sample the delights of the region at your own pace.
The South Vendée and Poitou area is extremely popular with those who enjoy equestrian interests and numerous riding schools offer lessons, outings and courses. It’s also possible to step back in time and travel the countryside at a leisurely pace in a horse drawn caravan or even to take part in a donkey trek through the Mervent forest and Marais Poitevin.
The Vendée claims to have more kilometres of rivers and canals available for fishing than any other department and keen anglers are certainly well catered for both here and in Deux -Sèvres. From the peace and quiet of fishing in a Plan d’eau (where all that’s usually required is a permit from the local Mairie or tabac) to angling or taking part in competitions at the popular 127 hectare lake complex at Rochereau near Chantonnay, where there is also a 2km stretch of water devoted to night fishing for carp.
For those who prefer coastal fishing, the 164 km Vendee coast is only a short drive away and offers: sea angling, beach casting, rock casting, sea harvesting and tidal river fishing. All of this and the chance to sample some superb seafood at the same time. This area certainly is an angler’s paradise.
There are several excellent courses in the area catering for differing levels of expertise. The Chemin de Grand Ormeau at Niort in Deux Sevres for example, is a 5868m flat course which is considered to be technically demanding and provides practice greens, bunkers as well as a 20 place driving range to allow you to work on your handicap.
The 18 hole course at St Jean des Monts, a short drive away in the Vendee, its design styled on the traditional Scottish Links, is rated by many as the best course in Western France. Nine holes of its undulating fairways wind their way through pine forests while the remaining nine offer superb views of the beach.