The charm of this forest is as much due to its undulating landscape as it is to the streams and rivers that cross it, the main ones being the Mère and the Vendée. This particular environment attracts many species, and both sedentary and migrating fauna benefit from the numerous watercourses for food and shelter. Throughout history, man has been able to use the advantages of this environment, as indicated by place-names as “les Verreries” and “les Tessonnières”.
Ramblers and nature lovers will be delighted by the terrain and its lush vegetation warranting for superb outings.
LE PARC D’ATTRACTIONS DE PIERRE BRUNE
At this family adventure park in the centre of the Mervent forest enjoy our amusement rides, the little train, bumper boats, mini-golf, the giant slide, rodeo simulator, mini karts, and the bouncy castles with inflated bubbles floating on the water!
LE NATUR’ ZOO
Only a few minutes away from Fontenay in the middle of the forest of Mervent, the zoological gardens “Natur’Zoo” promises an unforgettable stay through more than 300 animals (belonging to 60 different species) thriving in large wooded enclosures:
– Large carnivores: lions, tigers, wolves
– Lemuria’s living in virtual freedom in a forested area of 8 000 m²
– 2 hectares representing the African savannah, with giraffes, antelopes, ostriches etc.
– Unique in Europe: bears and white wolves held in sharing the same enclosure!
Not to mention the meerkats, owls, and monkeys who not only will please the old, but together with the large playground and the mini-farm, will also delight the young! A restaurant, a bar, and a shop are also at your disposal.
BASE DE LOISIRS NAUTISME ET PLEIN AIR
Hidden away at the banks of a lake in the middle of the forest, this nautical recreation centre is sure to stimulate your senses and awaits you with numerous activities on offer, be it sailing, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, or climbing, with or without supervision. Orientation circuits. We also have rowing boats for rent as well as electrically propelled ones and paddleboards.
ESPACE DE LOISIRS DU LAC DE CHASSENON
This recreation park is an absolute must located in an exceptional setting around an artificial beach established near the barrage of the Vendée river at Chassenon!
This welcoming and convivial site is dedicated to bathing, relaxation, and families. The bathing area is supervised, and there are water slides, a wading pool, a playground, and a picnic area. You can also rent pedalboats and electric boats, or else pay a visit to our bar or shop. Events all summer!
Angling is evidently an established activity in this well-preserved natural environment and simultaneously, raises your awareness as to the value of this splendid habitat!
The 130 hectares large Mervent lake is located in the centre of the forest, where its depths partly exceed 20 metres.
The Mervent barrage was built in 1956 to which two smaller ones, the Pierre Brune dam on the Mère river (upstream tributary) and the Albert dam on the Vendée river (upstream) were added.
Night fishing is permitted in two sectors:
- Throughout the year along 3,2 km on both banks, between the confluence of the stream at les Verreries towards the bridge crossing the valley (D99 – upstream from the bridge).
- From September 1st to April 25th along 3.6 km on the left bank, between the confluence of the Mère and the dam (downstream from the bridge)
- Electrically propelled boats are allowed
- Boats are launched at Mervent bridge, near the limit of the night fishing area.
In all, 13 bike loops especially designed for families but also for the hardier are mapped in a free guide available at the Mervent, Vouvant, and Fontenay-le-Comte tourist offices.
BICYCLE RENTALS, BASE DE LOISIRS DE MERVENT
Mountain bike rentals for adults and children. We welcome school classes, recreation centres, works councils, and associations
LA GROTTE DU PÈRE DE MONTFORT
After having founded the “Soeurs de la Sagesse” in 1703, Father Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was granted the title “Apostolic missionary” by the Pope who assigned him with preaching the Gospel in the aftermath of the wars of religion. He subsequently headed several missions in Western France before retiring in this cave for meditation in 1715. While he was venerated by some, he was shunned by others for his morality and influence. His life as a hermit ended after his eviction evicted for illegally having felled a number of trees within the neighbouring royal dominion. His latest pilgrimage took him to St-Laurent-sur-Sèvre where he died on April 17th, 1716. He was declared a saint in 1947.
Upon his passing, the grotto of Father de Montfort became a popular pilgrimage site where consequently several religious buildings (chapel, calvary…) and hostels were built.
VOUVANT “PETITE CITÉ DE CARACTÈRE”, A MEDIEVAL TOWN
It is said that Mélusine has been watching over this medieval stronghold for centuries. With some chance you may catch sight of her snake-like silhouette in one of the alleys, or at the top of the Mélusine tower, the only remnant of the mighty Lusignan fortress dominating the village’s well-preserved walls.
The church was built in the 10th century under the rule of William the Great, duke of Aquitaine. It is an architectural masterpiece furnished with a richly carved portal (11th and 15th centuries), a northern apsidal chapel from the 12th century, and a crypt in a flawless state of preservation.
LA TOUR MÉLUSINE
This watch-tower of the Lusignan castle dates back to 1242. According to the legend, it was built in one night by the fairy Mélusine. Visit its two vaulted halls and enjoy the magnificent panoramic view from the top over the medieval fortifications and the forest of Mervent-Vouvant.
THE LEGEND OF MÉLUSINE
Raimondin, lord of Poitou, was hunting in the forest accompanied by his uncle, count Aimeri de Poitiers. In the heat of the action, Raimondin accidentally gave him a fatal blow. Overwhelmed by sorrow, Raimondin fled into the forest and after having walked for several hours, he reached a spring known as “la Font de Cé”, where he met Mélusine. Charmed, he asked her for marriage. She accepted on condition that he promised never to try to see her on Saturdays. Indeed, as she had been condemned by her mother, the fairy Pressine, for having been foul against her father, she saw her long legs turn into a hideous scaly tail on every Saturday evening. Raimondin, of course betrayed his oath and learned the terrible secret. Barely had he committed his wrongdoing, did Mélusine fly out of the window while uttering horrendous spells against the strongholds she had built: “Pouzauges, Tiffauges, Mervent, Châteaumur and Vouvant, will each year, I swear, wane stone by stone till death”.
FOUSSAIS-PAYRÉ, “PETITE CITÉ DE CARACTÈRE”
This small village at the edge of the Mervent-Vouvant forest boasts one of the most remarkable Romanesque buildings of the Lower Poitou, being its church built between 1050 and 1100. Another prime period in the city’s history is reflected by the Renaissance market halls, as well as by the home of François Lauren (1522) and the Auberge de Sainte Catherine, owned by the family of the humanist and mathematician François Viète (1540-1603). As you enter the village you will also notice the old lime kilns recalling its industrial activities in the 19th century.
FAYMOREAU, “PETITE CITÉ DE CARACTÈRE”
THE “CENTRE MINIER”
Although this seems surprising, coal was mined in the Vendée! Between 1827 and 1958, miners and their sons and grandsons descended into the bowels of the earth. Today, the mining history cannot be forgotten. The terrace houses are still inhabited, the gardens cultivated, and the stained-glass windows by Carmelo Zagari still illuminate the miners chapel, while the Museum continues to witness to the great adventure of the coal mining activities in the basin.