The third and largest of the characteristic landscapes in Sud-Vendée is the plain extending eastwards of la Châtaigneraie. It stretches from l’Hermenault to Luçon where it is drained by the river Lay and characterises by open fields under cereal cultivation in large farms. Yet, this vast territory has also a lot to offer to its guests, among which gardens, windmills, protected churches, and innumerable possibilities for angling and rambling.
THE QUARRIES AT CHEFFOIS
At the ruins of this ancient celtic oppidum, a quartzite vein was once exploited for stones used for pavements and railway tracks. The development of the electricity network in 1922 generated the restructuring of the local labour that had developed since 1903. The site was closed in 1953 and was then acquired by the Départment de la Vendée. The “hole” is now filled with water whose banks have been refurbished. A worthwhile detour!
IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF LA CHÂTAIGNERAIE, WHERE THE QUALITY OF THE SKY IS EXCEPTIONAL
La Chapelle-aux-Lys is the first municipality in the Vendée to receive the label “Village étoilé” (starry village) scoring four stars. It is followed by the councils Marillet and Breuil-Barret.
In the centre of the village, a freely accessible circuit is available for curious visitors interested in astronomy. They will come across a meridian, both a vertical sundial built from tractor parts and an analemmatic one, as well as a photo exhibition ! Olivier Sauzereau, an astro-photographer regularly offers workshops in his observatory located at a former farm.
LE PARC DU CHÂTEAU DE L’HERMENAULT
This park was established for the summer residence of the Maillezais and la Rochelle bishops in the 17th and 18th centuries. The residence’s monumental and history-laden buildings group harmoniously around a central courtyard and open onto a beautiful perspective through the park. Four 110 m wide terraces overlook the canalised river Longèves and the horseshoe-shaped grassgrounds, followed by a wooded area.
An alignment of remarkable plane trees, the so-called Rabelais platanes, borders the terraces. A wash house, watermill, horse pool, and a barn with a timber frame roof attributed to Philibert Delorme add to the pastoral charm of the premises as you continue your promenade through this well-preserved venue from a bygone era.
LE JARDIN DU BÂTIMENT – THIRÉ
This site is listed as “Monument Historique” and “Jardin Remarquable”. As he designed the layout of his garden, the famous conductor William Christie was among other, much inspired by the mannerist
and baroque horticulture in Italy and France. Its composition consists of a succession of yew- and hornbeam hedges and basswood alleys.
Also note the cloister bounded by boxwood and rosebushes, the sylvan theatre with its chinoiserie, the boxwood broderies, and the rustic pergola.
CASTLE KEEP, MEDIEVAL GARDENS, AND MUSEUM
The site at the keep of Bazoges-en-Pareds proposes three visits:
The keep (“donjon”): dive back into the history of this the 14th century castle and see what everyday life was like in the Middle Ages. Take the spiral staircase through the tower’s six furnished floors right up to the top, 30 metres above the ground.
The medieval gardens: stroll through the garden among time-worn rosebushes twining around a 16th century dovecot. Then rest near the fountain, breathe the different scents from the aromatic herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Finally, meet the witch of Bazoges, who just might reveal some of her secrets.
You will also enjoy the Musée d’Art et de Tradition Populaire which focuses on rural life in the Vendée at the beginning of the 20th century. Audio-guided visit available in English
LE LOGIS DE LA CHEVALLERIE SAINTE GEMME LA PLAINE
“La Chevallerie” takes its name from the important commandery of Templar Knights who once held this site. It remained the property of powerful families close to the French kings and queens and was rebuilt and enlarged in the 17th and 18th centuries. When Pascal and Eugénie Maison bought the estate in 2004, it lay in ruins, so they started an ambitious preservation and restoration plan for this protected monument.
BIRTHPLACE OF JEAN DE LATTRE, MARÉCHAL DE FRANCE, MUSÉE NATIONAL CLEMENCEAU-DE LATTRE
The museum is located the centre of the home village of President Clémenceau and the Maréchal De Lattre de Tassigny. The birth house of Jean de Lattre has kept its original aspect and its 19th century garden. A bilingual presentation introduces you to his role in the political and military history of the 20th century.
LA COLLINE DES MOULINS
This is a major heritage site of the Vendée. It consists of a chapel and five windmills of which three are classified as historic monuments. The Conseil Départemental de la Vendée strives to enhance the site in order to attract the public through the implementation of pedestrian and cycling paths. The site offers a superb panorama on the Vendean boscage.