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Marais Poitevin - Poitou marshes

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The Marais Poitevin

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Marais Poitevin

Tour of discovery

Coulon, Green Venice

Boat trip

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To see, north to south

The "Marais Poitevin"

La Rochelle

Island of Ré

Island of Aix

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Madame Island

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The Romanesque Art

Rochefort

The Citadel of Brouage

The Citadel of Blaye

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The forest of La Coubre

The marshes

The "Marais Poitevin"

The carrelets

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Marsh - Home

 boat trip

Coulon tour of discovery

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The "Marais Poitevin", (the Marsh of Poitou)
or rather the Marais Poitevins (plural)

The Marais Poitevin is one of the rare wet zones of France and after the Camargue, it is the second largest.

It is made up of 75 municipalities, two regions, Poitou-Charentes and Pays de Loire, three departments, Deux-Sèvres, Charente-Maritime and Vendee.

"Marais Poitevins" spreads out from Niort in Deux-Sèvres, to the Bay of l'Aiguillon in Vendee, with a small curve into Charente-Maritime.

The Marais Poitevin covers overall approximately 100 000 hectares and the length from east to west, from Niort to the ocean, is 70 km.

The Sèvre Niortaise is the main river which feeds the marsh.

The " wet marshes " cover 30 000 hectares of easily flooded zones. They owe their name to the fact that they constitute the zones which are covered by the spreading floods of the rivers. The part situated between Niort and Maillé is nicknamed " Venice Verte " "Green Venice". Nature is the mistress here and it is still very protected.

The "Marais Desséchés" (Dried out Marshes) are in fact a set of polders for culture and breeding.

The "Marais Maritime" (maritime marsh) is formed by the bay of the l'Aiguillon, which is the remaining part of the big maritime bay.

A bit of history

Originally, the gulf of Pictons extended to Niort, with limestone islands. The sea withdrew and the bay was filled with alluviums.

The marsh is artificial and we know today that it is the result of 10 centuries of organisation and work.

There were monks, who in the 11th Century began work to drain the land to allow the rainwater to evacuate, and who dug all the canals to lower the level of the water, limit the floods and to reclaim the land in order to cultivate it.

The work of the monks was interrupted by the war of 100 years and the religious wars. During the reign of Henry IV, the work started again and with the help of the Dutch, continued until the end of the 18th Century.

Tradition says that the name of Marais Poitevin came about because the monks came from Poitiers.

One is struck by the layout of the canals which are not straight and have many bends. The generally accepted explanation is that this conception could slow down the water currents.

Some landmarks

The hydraulic network, the canals, conches, channels, ditches, locks, millraces of the Marais Poitevin are impressive.

 

The "conche" is the most typical with its vault of greenery, its meanderings and its rows of ash trees.

 

For the record, the conche of the Marais Poitevin has nothing to do with the conche of the coast of Royan, where it is the name given to a beach sheltered between two cliffs.

Conches have names linked to the local footnotes of history.

 

The "rigole" has more of a straight layout and is much deeper. It facilitates the drainage of water.

 

The "fossés" are ditches which mark the boundaries of the pieces of land and establish natural fences. They are very numerous because the pieces of land are small.


The tadpole ash trees, trees which have been lopped in order to produce a canopy of leafy branches above the trunk.

The poplar, le "blanc du Poitou ", is the other most wide-spread tree.

 

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