WINDMILLS AND WATERMILLS OF THE VENDEE


 4. FONTENAY, NIEUL, POUZAUGES AREA

 


 

NIEUL SUR L'AUTISE

Picture from
Nieul-sur-l'Autise tourist literature.

At Nieul-sur-l'Autise, a village reputed to be the birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the MAISON DE LA MEUNERIE, a milling museum located in a functioning watermill. Lovingly set up by an association called Les Gueurnivelles, room-settings show how the miller and his family lived, and an audio visual presentation gives an insight into the life of a bygone period. In odd-numbered years a fete is held around the mill at Whitsuntide.

The attractive village also has a magnificent Romanesque church - don't miss a visit to its cloisters, the best-preserved in the Vendée.

 

 

 

ST CYR DES GATS

Picture from
St-Cyr-des-Gats tourist literature

Just north of L'Hermenault, north-west of Fontenay-le-Comte and west of Vouvant. This restored mill is private property, but may sometimes be visited on one or other of the Journées du Patrimoine (National Heritage days) in September.

 

 

 

MOUILLERON-EN-PAREDS

Picture, above, from
Pays de la Chataigneraie tourist literature

The pretty little town of Mouilleron-en-Pareds, 12km south-west of Pouzauges, is the birthplace of two great French wartime leaders - the politician Georges Clemenceau (who signed the treaty with Germany on behalf of France at Versailles in 1918), and Marshall Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (eminent soldier of World War II) whose birthplace you can visit and who is buried in the cemetery there.

Hoar frost, above, on the Colline
des Moulins.

Look for the little 18th-century lavoir, or wash-house, from where you can take the stony Sentier des Meuniers (the millers' path) up through picturesque woods to the stark, windy COLLINE DES MOULINS where several windmills once stood and from which you get a magnificent panorama across the bocage. Today three or four towers remain, though no longer in use (one mill is now a memorial to Jean de Lattre), and you cannot go inside. If you can't face the walk, you can also reach the ridge by car, from a lane off the D949bis.

 

 

 

POUZAUGES

Picture from Pouzauges tourist literature

Outside the town of Pouzauges stand the twin windmills, restored in 1986 and 1988 known as the MOULINS JUMEAUX DU TERRIER MARTEAU. With their canvas-covered sails, they dominate the town from the crest of a hill, near the mysterious wood known as the Bois de la Folie, a former haunt of druidesses. (Unfortunately they are not open for visits.)

If you head for Puy Crapaud, 4km to the south-west, you will find a café (itself a truncated windmill), with a table d'orientation on top, indicating the major sights in the vast panorama that unfolds before you. (On a clear day you are said to be able to see the shimmering line of the sea, some 75km away; on a clear night you can make out the beams of lighthouses.)

 

 

 

 ST-MICHEL-MONT-MERCURE

At 287 metres, St Michel-Mont-Mercure is the Vendée's highest point, and an appropriate spot to find the MOULIN DES JUSTICES, another windmill that is still in working order. The conical roof can be turned to allow the Berton wooden-slatted sails to face the wind, using the guivre, or wooden pole. (The name comes from the "bois de justices", or gallows, that until some three centuries ago stood near the site.)
Located just off the road from St Michel to Les Herbiers, the mill's additional attractions include a creperie and bar, children's playground, picnic spot, and a collection of friendly animals and birds.
Stone-ground flour on sale, alongside ready-made brioches and mill-shaped loaves.

 

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