Walking Holidays 2021
Superb Walks - Idyllic Countryside
"..... lovely tranquil holiday, with outstanding hospitality ..... stimulating company and beautiful walks ....." - Val & Andrew Parks, London, UK
Your hosts at le Moulin du Chemin - Carolynn and Peter - recommend their own favourite routes, each starting and finishing at le Moulin du Chemin. These include a choice from two or more routes for each day of the six-night holiday.
GPX Files - GPX files for each of the routes is available from your hosts in GPX format for installation on your mobile device. The files can be emailed to you in advance if you wish.
Laminated Sheets - Sets of maps and route-notes in respect of each route are also provided to guests on arrival, in a Personalised Dossier. The sets of walking routes comprise large-scale highlighted maps and professional route notes. The maps and route notes are presented on laminated A4 sheets.
Independent Itineraries - Alternatively, you can create your own itineraries. Copies of local 1:25,000 maps, published by IGN (the French Government mapmaker) are available at le Moulin du Chemin. Your hosts will be pleased answer your questions.
The following section provides a brief description of the recommended Walking Circuits.
"..... enjoyed our walking holiday very much. You have managed to put together a perfect holiday with food, wine and wonderful hosts. Beautiful place. Thank you very much." - Julie & Julian, Leigh Woods, Bristol, UK
APPLE AND WOODLOUSE PATH
Stretch your legs after the journey to le Moulin du Chemin.
The route is waymarked. It helps familiarise you with the surrounding countryside.
See the moss-covered remnants of an old rock quarry and the site of an ancient antimony mine.
The rolling countryside is pretty and unspoiled and definitely without crowds.
On summer Sunday afternoons the newly restored and working windmill is open to the public.
The route to the windmill is an unwaymarked two kilometre extension on the Apple and Woodlouse Path. Your hosts will explain the simple route before you leave.
Cultural Note - Local farmers organically cultivate traditional strains of grain, which are milled at the windmill. Various types of bread and a regional type of pasta are made with the flour. Many local inhabitants bake with the flour.
Products of the windmill are also used extensively in le Moulin du Chemin's delicious cuisine.
LES JINCHERES LOOPS
An intriguing labyrinth of pleasing paths with cool woods beside a stream, meadows, pastures and an ancient 'pixie' footbridge.
A shallow wooded valley with a stream and picturesque string of ancient cottages. Climb past apple orchards and fields to the hamlet of la Bource.
After a descent, the return path ascends steeply through woods predominated by sweetchestnut trees, to a panorama of pastures and apple orchards.
4.6km/2.3miles or 6.2km/2.7miles or 9km/4miles The highlighted map indicates the shorter routes home.
Cultural Note - The communal bread oven at la Bource is fired occasionally for community events. Prefau, the original garlic bread - and beyond any shadow of doubt the best garlic bread in the whole world - is baked as well as other products, courtesy of the windmill.
“Fantastic hospitality, lovely setting and wonderful scenic walks.” – Neil & Lucille, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada
SCILLE ROUTE NORTH
The Medieval farmstead of St Marc, originally with six towers but now only one remains. The church at Scillé is more than 1,000 years old, attested by its architecture.
Gently rolling pastures and fields dotted with farmsteads and hamlets lead to the village of l'Absie - the nearest village to le Moulin du Chemin.
Return by a shallow wooded valley where sweet chestnut trees predominate. The path ascends through woods to views across pastures and apple orchards.
The change in elevation between le Moulin du Chemin and L’Absie is one hundred metres.
Shorter circuit - 15km/9miles
Agricultural Note - Much prized (literally) local breed of cattle - resembling pale, immaculate Jersey stock - are prevalent on this route.
The cattle breed is 'Parthenais', after the nearby town of Parthenay. The quality of Parthenais Meat is superior.
ENTIRE SCILLE ROUTE
Le Moulin's stony track ascends through woods to join a wide wooded path leading to a Medieval fortified farm at la Verdonniére.
La Verdonnière is at the top of an escarpment with views across the Vendèe to the Atlantic coast. The escarpment divides the bocage from the Vendèe.
The gentle return is via pastures and fields, with spring wild flowers and summer butterflies, to the village of Scillé.
A lane out the village and a wooded path lead back to le Moulin.
Shorter circuit – 13km/7miles
Geological note - Walking is a great pleasure in the region of le Moulin thanks to the geological feature known as the Amorican Formation.
Eire's windswept rocky West Coast is the north of the Amorican Formation. The feature dips beneath the Celtic Sea to reappear with the steep hills and valleys of England's Devon and Cornwall. South of la Manche, the Amorican Formation reappears as the rugged coastline of Brittany, France.
South of the Loire Valley the southern extremity of the Amorican Formation reappears, weathered and mellowed to procuduce the green rolling hills and bocage of the Gâtine, where le Moulin is so ideally situated.
".... a wonderful relaxing week ..... Loved the countryside, the wild flowers and old buildings. Thank you Carolynn and Peter for your kindness, great food and wine and we enjoyed the company of our fellow guests." - Wilma & Bill, Auckland, NZ
SCILLE ROUTE SOUTH
Le Moulin's stony track ascends through woods to join a network of wooded paths leading to the Medieval fortified farm at la Verdonniére.
The view from the escarpment at le Verdinière is across the Vendèe to the Atlantic coast. The escarpment is the divide between the bocage from the relative uniformity of la Vendèe.
A gentle path with spring wild flowers and summer butterflies leads to the village of Scillé.
A lane out the village and a wooded path lead back to le Moulin.
Shorter circuit – 13km/7miles
LE BOIS DE LA BOUCHERIE
The GR364 leads from le Moulin via the folkloric village of la Fazilière of the village of le Beugnon. The route then becomes steeply undulating with conifers - known as la Petite Suisse - and on into magnificent deciduous forests.
In the hedgerows are cherries, plumbs, abricots, figs, apples, medlars, walnuts and hazelnuts, not all in-fruit at the same time, of course. Nobody will object if you help yourself.
Longer circuit - 18km/11miles
Historical Note (Roman Road) - It is well known that Roman roads were straight. For marching soldiers the quickest route between two points is a straight line. As an exceptional, winding Roman roads followed lines of hill-crests. Winding Roman roads were defensive - both flanks could be defended due to the raised the elevation provided by the hills.
Historical Note (French Revolution) - Butcher's Wood is so named to commemorate the hundreds local people who were massacred there by the Revolutionary Army as part of a genocide against the population of the Vendée following the French Revolution in 1798. Vendèen folk were (and in some cases still are) for Church and Crown and therefore by definition against the Revolution.
Today, le Bois de la Bucherie and le Moulin du Chemin are in the administrative department (similar to a county elsewhere) known as les Deux Sevrès. Les Deux Sevrès was created by Napoleon for the purpose of reducing the inordinately large area then covered by la Vendée, for political and administrative reasons.
The original structure of le Moulin du Chemin still has a slitted window opening since those turbulent times, for use by archers. The wall in question is now an internal wall and the window is no longer immediately evident.
"Great hikes, wonderful food, wine and hospitality. Superb!" - Nicky, New York, USA
SHORTER PICNIC WALK
The path from le Moulin’s leafy valley leads to pastures, woods, orchards and clear streams, ponds and small lakes.
A sylvan path carpeted in wild garlic takes the route through the woods to a ridge where a restored windmill may be working, if wind conditions are favourable.
A mouth-watering picnic prepared by your hosts awaits beside the preacful fishing lakes. A sunlight dappelled tablecloth, laden with a variety of wholsome picnic-goodies and some deeply chilled Cabernet d'Anjou wine can be expected.
You may see hoopoe, hen harrier, golden oriole, kingfisher, various woodpeckers and plenty of other birds. Even a scarce swallowtail butterfly has been seen at the picnic site.
On the return route is a religeous grotto known as Notre-Dame-de-Lourds, commemorating the return of World War II prisoners. Water from the nearby source of the Loupe is reputed to cure certain skin ailments.
The return route coincides with the waymarked National Hiking Trail GR364, which passes le Moulin du Chemin.
A small detour at la Faziliere can be worthwhile - la Fazilière is the seat of an ancient basket weaving industry.
Shorter circuit - 13km/8miles
Note - The windmill is open to the public for visits most Sunday afternoons during the summer. See the "Windmill Extension" under the walks proposed for Sunday afternoon, above.
LONGER PICNIC WALK
The route going to the picnic site is the same for both the shorter and longer walk.
After the picnic a gentle descent on wooded paths and lanes, through pastures brings the route to the Saumort stream at Saumort farm which is an equestrian center where horse riding is possible for guests at le Moulin du Chemin.
Longer circuit - 15km/9miles
Horse Riding - Guests at le Moulin du Chemin can ride with the good people at the Saumort Farm Equestrian Centre. Further information is contained on the Equestrian part of this website.
"An absolutely wonderful week - the walks, the flowers, the birds, the peacefulness and beauty all around - and most particularly the kindness and hospitality from Peter and Carolynn....." - Carolyn, Dublin, Ireland
The nearby village of l'Absie has banks, bars, pharmacy, mini-supermarket, tobacconist, XII-century church, etc.
One of the routes from le Moulin du Chemin to l'Absie is entirely waymarked going north on National Trail GR364.
An alternative route climbs between rolling pastures and arable fields dotted with farmsteads and tiny hamlets to the village of l'Absie.
Towards l'Absie the terraine on the alternative route is steeply undulating. This route passes the source of the River Vendée, after which the department of la Vendèe is named.
Shorter circuit - 12km/8miles
Historical Note - the house of the closest neighbour of le Moulin du Chemin is know as Loubrière, and is so named after a minor château which formerly stood on the same site. The château was destroyed by fire. The name Loubrière or L'Aubrière is derived from the word "Oubliette" - a hole in the ground where prisoners could be kept, sealed by a large rock to prevent escape. Oublier is the verb to forget.
LA ROUTE DU BUSSEAU
Longer circuit - 23km/14miles
'..... Excellent walking, lovely weather, superb food and great company ..... you have created a peaceful haven here ....." - Graham & Lyn - Needwood, Staffs, UK
LES CINQ COMMUNES
Up le Moulin’s rocky track through woods with spring orchids to a patchwork of pastures, woods and ancient hedgerows. You will see medieval pantiled farmhouses and a 1619 fortified farm. If the time of year is right there will be swallowtail butterflies, skylarks, hoopoe and hen harriers, to name a few.
Shorter circuit - 13km/8miles
ROUTE DE FENIOUX
Spring-flowered meadows where otters have been reported. Hazel and walnuts are ripe in autumn hedgerows. The sleepy village of la Fazilière has a waymarked detour to the restored lavoir and steeping-ponds of ancient basket makers. See loads of birds and butterflies.
Longer circuit - 26km/16miles
"..... The pool was such a welcome to us all after the lovely walks in the woods and sunshine. Great food, wonderful company and we feel so relaxed after a fantastic week's holiday." - Anne & Colin, Orwell, Herts, UK
14 July Walk
we first went on this walk with other villagers of Scillé under the guidance of the Mayor, to build up an appetite of the 14 July Village Lunch in 2008. The charming walk takes in some quaint corners of the commune not covered by other walks.
Medium circuit - 16km/10miles
La Rocher Branlant
A magical valley strewn with enormous granite boulders from which seem to sprout ancient oak trees. La Rocher Branlant is a lovely site and it is ususally deserted, which adds to its charm.
One boulder estimated to weigh thirty tons will move under pressure from a ‘good’ person – provided no small stones have been washed into the cracks – the word branlant can be translated as ‘rocking’.
The route goes through the village of L’Absie with the usual amenities of a small French country village (church, pharmacy, banks, bars, restaurants, etc).
Longer circuit - 31km/19miles
La Rocher Branlant is also interesting to access by bike (20 minutes ride) or by car (10 minutes drive). There is a photo of la Rocher Branlant among the images below below.
To See On Your Walks
Extra Walking Routes
- Coulonges Market/Val d'Autize - 13km/8miles
20 minute's drive medium circuit - Market only on Tuesday Mornings
- Faymoreau (bar, museum, stained glass, etc) - 10km/6miles
15 minute's drive short circuit
- Marais Poitevin (Damvix) - 8.9 or 11km/5.5 or 10miles
40 minute's drive
- Mervent Lakes and Forest - 5.7 or 11km/3.4 or 7miles
40 minute's drive
Extra Walking Routes - descriptions
The following section provides a brief description of recommended Extra Walking Routes.
The Extra Walking Routes are accessible from le Moulin du Chemin by car, and in one case by bike or a car.
Coulonges Market and Val d'Autize
medium distance walking route: 13km/8miles
- 20 minute' initial drive plus 5 minute's drive from the market to the start of the walk - car required
The local-produce market at Coulonges-sur-l’Autize takes place only on Tuesday Mornings. At noon the market commences to shut-down and by 13:00hrs no sign remains that a market was there in the morning. It is well known that lunchtime and the siester that follows are sacred to French country people.
The market is where local people have traditionally met and shopped. Many local people - particularly the older folk, and today plenty of younger folk also - prefer fresh food products from the locality, where they know and trust the producer.
The village square in front of the Renaissance Château boasts the last remaining pissoire in the whole world(!). Behind the château is a shaded park, where there can be seen 'a thousand year old' sweet chestnut tree(!). The château presently houses the Mayor's Office and guided tours are sometimes available of other, historic parts of the chatêau.
A further 5 minute's drive is required to reach the start of the rural walking route in the Val d'Autize. Walk in the ancient venelles of St-Pompain, climb the abandoned railway viaduct, have a picnic by the Roman* bridge and stroll back in the cool of the walnut groves.
*Le Moulin's hosts believe that evidence supports the varacity of the 'Roman' premise, with respect to the anciant bridge structure.
"..... Beautiful countryside, well planned walks, good food, excellent accommodation, friendly welcoming hosts..... Thank you Peter and Carolynn for your warm hospitality....." - John & Rosie, Sleaford, UK
Faymoreau - Site of Historic Mining Activity
short/medium distance walking route: 10km/6miles
- 15 minute's drive - bike or car required (bikes can be hired from le Moulin du Chemin)
The former mining village of Faymoreau has a interesting, mainly rural waymarked walking route and a number of other attractions.
The walking route passes through deciduous woods, past small farms and into the quaint original and presently inhabited miners village. Part of the walk uses a disused railway cutting where some unusual geology can be seen.
Faymoreau is also note-worthy for a surprisingly fascinating exhibition of anthrecite mining in the locality (1827 to 1958). The exhibition was revamped in 2020. Included in the lively exhibition is information about the inovative infrastructure necessary to suport the industry and depictions of the lives of miners and their families.
In addition, Faymoreau's Miners Chapel has a set of windows with striking modern stained glass created by Carmelo Zagari - a well known Italian artist trained in Paris.
Marais Poitevin (Parc Naturel Régional)
8.9 or 11km/5.5 or 10miles/13km or 8miles
- 40 minute's drive
The Marais Poitevin is 40 minute's drive to a vast patchwork of canals, pastures and woods, dotted with picturesque “port” villages. Built by medieval monks to tame a vast river delta on the Atlantic. Numerous waymarked walks as well as medieval and renaissance abbeys to explore. Hire a boatman to gain another perspective and to see fire-on-the-water. Boats for you to paddle are also for hire following waymarked routes on the waterways.
- 30 minute’s drive
Vouvant is 30minutes by car from le Moulin and within a few kilometres of Mervent Forest. Vouvant is a fascinating Medieval village with pavement cafés, extensive ramparts, postern gate and the tower of the fairy Melusine who created the village, along with several other fortified towns (each within the space of one night), with an apron-full of stones and a mouthful of saliva. Vouvant has a one-hour walk around the village, taking in each of the places of particular interest.
Mervent Lakes and Forest
5.7 or 11km/3.4 or 7miles
- 40 minute's drive
A choice of walks which can be combined for a longer distance. Majestic deciduous forest, winding paths, dappled sunlight and wonderful lake and forest vistas. Visit a lakeside bar, Mervent dam and the grotto de Père de Montford. Can be combined with a visit to Vouvant.
".....a teriffic week, the weather, the food, the company, the wonderful countryside and the charming walks..... making this one of our most wonderful holidays ever." - Gabriella & Brian, San Isidro, Lima, Peru
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