With at least 2,600 hours of sunshine a year, the department of Deux Sevres, along with neighbouring Vendee, is second only to the South of France as the sunniest area of France.
This warm and gentle micro-climate in a rural setting of fields and forests, lakes and rivers makes Deux Sevres an ideal holiday destination for those who enjoy all kinds of outside pursuits such as walking, cycling, fishing and horse riding, and a good choice for a holiday in Spring or Autumn.
This international nature and angling centre at Moncoutant in north west Deux Sevres offers fishermen, from experienced anglers to beginners and their families, a choice of environments around 100 hectares of managed lakes set amongst woodland, fields and hedgerows.
Enjoy 24 hour game fishing and fly fishing for trout, salmon and black bass. There are also special areas for pike, pike-perch and catfish. There are separate fishing areas for children and also tennis and horse riding; exhibitions and underground aquarium tour from Easter to September; night fishing, lessons and equipment hire. For more information, tel: (00 33) 5 49 72 00 01
Enjoy a sense of journeys made long ago by pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela by joining part of the long distance GR36 pilgrim route (stretching south from Manche in Normandy to the Pyrenees) as it passes through the region via Thouars, the heart of Deux Sevres’s capital of Parthenay, and Niort.
In the forest of Secondigny, the route meets with the east/west GR364 which begins in the department of Vienne and ends at St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the Vendee. Walking is a great way to get a feel for this gem of traditional rural France and the national paths - sentiers de grande randonnee or GRs - throughout France are well mapped and marked trails described in detail (in French) in TopoGuides. Local tourist offices will also have plenty of information on walking in the area.
The Le Thouet a Velo trail, opened in 2008, follows the meandering River Thouet across the plains around Thouars and via Airvault through changing countryside of woodland and rolling hills, 145km to Parthenay not far from its source at Le Beugnon.
450 special signposts denote the route, and a route guide called De Rives en Reves in English is available from local tourist offices which splits the route into timed sections.
There are plans to extend the route 30km to connect with Saumur where the Thouet meets the Loire and also to connect southwards with the cycle routes of the Marais Poitevin.
Punts and rowing boats leave from various landing stages with trips lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours allowing you to see the fauna and flora of the Marais and its waterway villages at close quarters.
Coulon Tourism offers boat trips with or without a guide for individuals and groups. For the more energetic, tel: (00 33) 5 49 24 18 79 for rowing boat and canoe trips which can be guided if required.
This zoological park and study centre, spread over 25 hectares in the Forest of Chize at Villiers-en-Bois, specializes in the conservation of European mammals.
Make a family outing to see 600 animals covering over 50 species such as otters, bison, wild oxen, wolves, reptiles and vultures in large enclosures. There are guided walks by animal behaviour experts, marked trails and bbq areas. Two new enclosures opened recently for otters and Barbary apes. Open Feb to Nov. Tel: (00 33) 5 49 77 17 17 for more details.
Thouars, located in a beautiful position on the banks of the River Thouet, is a first class location for holiday leisure pursuits. Find canoeing and kayaking on the gentle Thouet or the more challenging River Argenton and also line fishing. There is an equestrian centre close to the town.
Set on the 8 hectare Lake Hautibus, Argenton-Chateau is a great venue for swimming, fishing and all kinds of nautical sports. The town has a large open-air swimming pool, pedaloes on the lake, sailing and yachting bases and a canoeing and kayaking club.