23 August 2019
It was during one of the first true spring days that we started our journey on the “sentier des Nattes” pathway in Aziré, Vendée, for a 9-km walk. While the temperature was getting close to 30°C (86°F), there was no better way to cool off than to be in the heart of the “Green Venice”. Put on your trainers and follow us on our tour inside the Marais poitevin.
Starting from Aziré harbour in Vendée
Wash of Aziré in Benet in the Marais Poitevin
From the car park of the small harbour of Aziré, just a few kilometres away from Benet, the “sentier des Nattes” pathway starts quietly, along Aziré’s small canal towpath. We go past the village wash house after only a few metres. Thanks to a system of rails and chains, it allowed washerwomen to adapt the level of their “carrosse” (a wooden tool used to kneel) to the water level. Then comes the first curiosity of the walk: the “Rosalie” chain box. As the sign explains, this way to cross the channel is both playful and practical. We can also say that it’s original. It is simple to use it: get in the chain box and pull the chain to get to the other side of the channel. Even if we don’t need to do it for our walk, we are kind of reassured about the concept when the time to use it comes in a few kilometres.
Numerous gateways and green pathways are along the small channel up to the Sainte Christine bridge. This is a perfect place for a picnic, with numerous tables available. You can also start the walk on the yellow-marked pathway from this point.
Chain box on the footpath of Mats in Aziré
Along the channel of Courdault
The walk in the heart of the Marais poitevin continues along the small channel. By turning right, you get into a straight pathway longing the channel of Courdault. This pathway, in the shadow of the trees on the banks of the channel, is clearer, even though riding a bike here might no be a good idea. Once the long straight path is done, we continue our walk to the ford and the famous chain box.
Crossing the ford with the chain box
Small bridge on the path of Mats Aziré
In the heart of the “Petites Nattes” marsh, a “conche” (another name for a small channel) interrupts the walk. Looking on your left, you quickly understand that this chain box has nothing to do with the first one. It looks more like a typical boat of the Marais poitevin (known as the “plate”) with a delicate balance. You stay concentrated as you pull the chain to get to the other side of the “conche”.
The pathway hugs a few pastures and you can see cows. The authentic Marais poitevin as you like it. Be careful where you walk on, there may be holes on the ground. You can guess tunnels done by the inhabitants of this area, coypus and other animals from the marsh.
Once we go past the hamlet of “Nattes” and a few bridges, here we are once again on the road longing the channel of Aziré. We come full circle. As we get out of the shelter created by the ash trees’ shadows, we can suddenly feel the heat once again. We must admit that it was nice being in this quiet and fresh place of the Marais poitevin.
The Marais poitevin is a great place for strolling. Whether you want to ride a bike, a boat or you want to walk, from Niort to La Tranche-sur-Mer and going through Coulon, come and get a unique experience with your family or your friends!