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Marais Poitevin
The Marais Poitevin is the largest of the three areas of Marais (marshlands) in the Vendée. The Marais are what is left of the ancient Gulf of Pictons a large basin that was scoured out during the last ice age and which has since slowly been silted up by alluvial deposits left by the local rivers and the Loire.  During the Roman period at least 10 rivers drained into the gulf, but today just the Sèvre Niortaise, the Cure and the Lay have Atlantic estuaries. During the early medieval period drainage of the Marais was started by the Benedictine monks, the Dutch were brought in later to continue the drainage work and built the Drogues (dykes) to keep the sea at bay. Monks from the Abbey at Maillezais, which was built in 1005 on the site of a ruined chapel, together with monks from the Abbeys of St. Michel-en-Herm, Nieul-sur-l'Autise, l'Absie and St. Maixant were responsible for all of the early drainage work. The Monks had great skill as is evident by the construction of the aqueduct at Maille, which was built between 1654 and 1662 following the completion  of drainage work on the marshes around Vix.

Three Departments, The Vendée, Deux Sèvres and Charente-Maritime have areas of the Marais Poitevin within their borders, which is the second largest wetland in France covering approximately 0.5% of the total land mass of France.
The marshland can be divided into two parts, the Marais Mouille (wet marshes known locally as the Venise Vert or
Green Venice and the Marais Dessèche (Dry marshes), between them they have over 24,000km of canals and ditches with a further 600kms of wider canals and rivers.

Today the
Anse de LAiguillon is now more often referred to as le Baie-de-l'Aiguillon, although it once merited the designation of gulf. The bay consists of 5,000 hectares of mudflats, it is a stopping off point for migratory birds and has been designated a National Nature Reserve.

There are three distinct regions within the Marais Poitevin. The upper reaches of the Sèvre Niortaise and Vendée rivers, more commonly referred to as the Venise Vert or Green Venice, supports a thriving farming community. The small fields between tree lined canals makes this part of the Marais an extremely attractive area and therefore a popular tourist destination. Some farmers still transport their cattle from field to field in flat bottomed working barges; this traditional method of cattle husbandry is however a dying tradition and one is now lucky to see it in operation.

The Middle section is the largest area of the Marais, it is mainly devoid of trees the topography being principally determined by agriculture, these flat lands called
Poulders are extremely fertile and productive. Within this area however there are several nature reserves and areas of common land, which belong to the communes and can be freely grazed. These common areas measure between 100 hectares and 300 hectares totalling some 2,000 hectares of grazing land.

The final section of the Marais is the land beyond the drainage control zone, this consists of salt marshes and mudflats all of which are washed at high tide by the sea but are however gradually silting up.
The Marais Poitevin is one of the richest natural habitats in France, attracting naturalists from all over the world. Over 250 species of birds of which 130 nest in the marshes, 44 species of mammals, 23 species of amphibians and reptiles, 322 species of fish and over 700 species of wild flora have been recorded

The following lists some of the more interesting sites and features that make up the workings of the Marais Poitevin.
The Green Venice
Le Port de Courdault
The Aquaduct of Maille
The Hydaulic Node at Bazoin
The Barrage at Boisse
The Canal Ceinture des Hollandais
Les Portes a la Mer (tide gates)
The commons
Le Bateau a Chaine
Les anciens Marais Salants
L'ancient port de Lucon
L'Ile de la Dive
Les Polders autour de Triaize
L'Ecuse de la Pionte aux Herbes
Le Pont du Brault
La Pointe de L'Aiguillon
Les Mizottes (salt Marshes)
Le Baie de l'Aiguillon
Towns & Villages in the Marais Poitevin
Port de Courdault
Saint Michel-en-l'Herm
Saint denis du Payre
Bike Hire on the Marais Poitevin;

Damvix.Equestrian Centre, 2,La Maison des Champs. Tel. 06 80 45 69 98.

Maillezais: Embarcadere de l'Abbaye. Le Grand Port. Tel. 02 51 87 21 87

Le Mazeau: Le Port. Tel. 02 51 52 90 73.

Restaurants; The Marais Poitevin has a whole host of restaurants, many specialising in the local cuisine.
                     For more details see Marais Poitevin Restaurants

Boat Hire;  Throughout the Marais poitevin you will find a large number of places where you can hire a boat to take a close up look at this most attractive region. For a full details see Boat hire Marais poitevin
Chambre d'Hotes in the heart of the Marais Poitevin