The delights of the department of Deux Sevres are relatively undiscovered making this gem of traditional, rural France a real treasure to explore.
In a department that takes its name from 2 rivers which have their source within its boundaries – the Sevres Nantaise and Sevres Noirtaise – water plays an important role.
The Marais-Poitevin area of marshes and woodlands is one of Deux Sevres’s most popular attractions. In this ‘Green Venice’, 900 miles of shady meadows and waterways originally built by eleventh century monks around the Sevres Niortais, farmers can still be seen visiting their fields by flat bottomed boat.
Take a punt with a local guide who’ll point out wildlife from eels to egrets, or follow the numerous paths and cycle tracks, stopping along the way at pretty marsh villages such as Arcais or Le Vanneau which hosts a traditional floating market in summer.
The visitor centre at Coulon illustrates the customs and traditions of life on the marshes, and lunch or dinner in the village is the ideal place to try some of the gourmet food of the Marais – melons, parthenais beef, eel, white mojettes beans, small creamy chabichou goat cheese and desserts and drinks flavoured with angelica.
The mild climate of the Thouet Valley supports hillsides dotted with vineyards, cereal crops and fruit trees, while the river is popular with anglers and its steep sided meanders boast beautiful arched bridges and Romanesque churches.
The town of Thouet is full of architectural and historical interest and nearby Chateau d’Oiron is particularly fine. Towns also worth a visit are lively Niort and Parthenay – a medieval town that was once a major stopover on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.
Moncoutant, in north west Deux Sevres, makes a great day out. This international nature and angling centre on specially managed lakes set between forests and meadows can be enjoyed both by fishermen and those who love walking, horse riding and mountain biking.