29 October 2021
I put on my hiking boots, download the IGN hiking application on my phone, put my raincoat in my bag and set off along the “Marmande” trail. A leisurely stroll along a 12.4 km trail to explore the various points of interest of Mareuil-sur-Lay-Dissais, a town in the Marais Poitevin regional natural Park, 10 km from Luçon.
A footpath through the village of Mareuil
What better way to explore the Regional Natural Park than on foot? Walk at your own pace, to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere all around you, admire the different shades of the lush-green fields against the blue sky, and the light that reflects onto the dam. The little town of Mareuil has an interesting background, as it was once a step along the salt route, and a major place of passage between the ocean and the Marais poitevin. It is a former harbour that welcomed boats transporting salt along the Lay.
I begin my walk along the peaceful banks of the Lay. I get the feeling I will be making plenty of new discoveries on the way. I catch a glimpse of the church of Saint-Sauveur up on a rock overlooking the river. This church is a masterpiece of Romanesque art in Vendée, was built in the 12th century and is a classified Historic Monument. Then I walk along the greenway path with an Arboretum and very pleasant picnic area with a great view of the Lay. Further on, I also cross through the centre of Mareuil, to then leave the town shortly afterwards.
Saint Sauveur Church of Mareuil sur Lay-Dissais.
A rural atmosphere with varied scenery
This walk is an easy-going way to explore the varied scenery in and around Mareuil, on the riverbanks, in the forest, across farming land, past the dam and lake. There are varied atmospheres along the way, from the rural footpaths through the forest, via the small hamlets with little houses, farms and curious dogs watching closely as we pass by. As we walk along the Marmande trail, we are surprised by the presence of farming all around us: vast plains of farmland with cereal crops next to the vines of the Mareuil vineyard, on the hillsides of the Lay and Yon rivers, the biggest and one of the most well-known vineyards in Vendée. Choosing to do this walk during the grape harvest is an even more interesting experience, as the entire vineyard is really brought to life. Slightly lower down are the meadows used by various breeders and the hay fields.
Further on, time stands still as we cross over Marillet dam, and then head left down an intimate little footpath that runs alongside the lake bearing the same name. This is my favourite part of the walk. When we leave the woods, the path leads to the lake and the beautiful sky filled with cotton-like clouds blends perfectly with the dazzling green shades of the meadows.
Paysage traversé par le sentier Marmande.
This walk is a loop trail that naturally leads us into the town centre with a view of the whole town down below from one of the best viewpoints along the Rue du Calvaire. I choose to stop here for a well-deserved lunch break. Mareuil-sur-Lay-Dissais is certainly a welcoming place with various restaurants, and also offers tours and tastings at the wine cellars, boat trips along the river Lay, canoeing, and so much more.
There are so many walks to do in the Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park. I can’t wait to try out another one!
Find out more :
IGN hiking maps: https://ignrando.fr/fr/parcours/fiche/details/id/630357/
Marmande trail: https://www.sudvendeelittoral.com/itineraire/sentier-pedestre-marmande/