Traditions of the time have gone through the years to make today Marais Poitevin a real personality in its own right. It is a unique culture and way of life who have shaped the history and particularities of this natural environment where tranquility and serenity are there.

The market garden spirit: halfway between tradition and modernity

The market garden spirit is imbued with a deep respect for nature and pride in local culture and traditions. The inhabitants of the region, called the Maraîchins, have a close relationship with their natural environment, which is both their source of livelihood and their source of inspiration. You should know that the inhabitants of the marsh lived according to the seasons since winter, the swamp floods, this is a phenomenon called the evalle.

The plate (or the boat), a story that endures

For many years, the only means of transport in the Marais Poitevin was the boat. In fact, the inhabitants used it to move through the channels narrows of the marsh, for to fish and to transport goods. Little by little, the construction of paths and structures such as bridges and footbridges put this means of transport aside for favor land vehicles.

In the Marais Poitevin, we do not speak of “boat” but rather of “flat” or “batai” and today " small boat ". The majority of boats were formerly constructed of wood or iron. Some were cement but they were intended for the transport of animals and heavy equipment. To move forward in this green maze, the market gardeners used a pigouille, a kind of large wooden stick allowing the boat to be propelled in shallow water. We can still see some of them today although the use of oars is favored for a more practical side.

The years passed and the plates lost their primary function thus leaving room for tourism since the 1920s/1930s. Boat construction has been modernized using new techniques such as the use of resin. The hulls are molded in this more solid and durable material to resemble in every way the traditional plates of the time. Today, they are used for allow tourists to discover, during a stroll, the history of the Marais Poitevin, its fauna, its flora, its habits and customs.

Agriculture, a central element of market gardening life

The Maraîchins made a lot of their living from agriculture formerly and also wood with many sawmills established in the territory, some of which are still present today. The agriculture of yesteryear was based on market gardening and cattle breeding. Market gardeners mainly grew vegetables, such as cabbage, salads, carrots, leeks and onions, who were sold on local markets and more unusual, at prices water markets.

Cattle breeders mainly raised dairy cows and beef cattle. Farmers had to live with the seasons and especially in winter because the meadows were affected by floods, a natural phenomenon called evaille. These floods had many advantages such as good soil fertilization thanks to the nutrient-rich sediments which were deposited there.



More unusual, transhumance is also a tradition that has persisted over time in the Marais Poitevin. When water regained its rights in this natural landscape, the meadows were flooded and could no longer accommodate cattle and other animals.

When the summer season began again, the meadows were passable again, so the animals could return to their quarters! Then the transhumance begins. Formerly, farmers in the marsh used transhumance to bring their animals to graze on pastures richer in grass. Today, this tradition of putting out to grass is still practiced, even if it is much rarer than before.

The animals are transported on traditional boats and cross the Marais Poitevin in complete tranquility. It's a breathtaking spectacle which recalls ancient times and the traditional way of living in the Marais Poitevin. This great highlight is an unmissable event for locals and tourists.


Did you know?

In the past, the inhabitants of the Marais Poitevin lived mainly from agriculture and fishing and they had to be able to quickly spot their house when they came home late at night after their work day. The bright colors of the shutters made it possible to distinguish them easily from other houses in swampy areas. Over time, this tradition has been maintained et shutters painted blue or red have become a symbol of the Marais Poitevin.

A paradise for fishermen since time immemorial

Emotion Marais Poitevin

Fishing is also still as present over the years. It was a important activity in the past providing a source of food and income for the inhabitants of the marsh. Today, it is more practiced as leisure activity.

The Sèvre Niortaise is a river full of fish of which many species have taken up residence. We find there carp, perch, roach, catfish, pike which has the famous eel! Several traditional fishing techniques have persisted, such as fishing with vermée or scale, although they are very regulated.

Zoom on the village streets, particularity

Coralie Bouchet

During your visit, you will certainly wander through villages called “village streets”. Characteristics of the Marais Poitevin and in particular from wet marsh, these villages are located along the waterways and the only street in the village. The rather “land” streets stretch along the water “streets”. You will notice that the houses are turned more towards the street side while agricultural outbuildings, more towards the waterway. Which therefore reminds the agricultural way of life Maraîchins at the time. You will often see a footbridge which provides access to the garden, most of the time on the other side of the conche as well as several venelles access for residents across the street.

Discover this atypical architecture in the town of La Garette (Sanais), Lapwing-Irleau, d'Arçais (La Garenne) and Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud (La Rivière and Montfaucon).

Glossary of the Marais Poitevin

What is Marais Poitevin évaille?

The evalle is the word patois typically market gardening to evoke the flood. This word can be written in various ways: évail, évaille, évaie…

The evaille is a phenomenon characterized by a rise in water level covering land and paths, sometimes making certain access inaccessible. This transforms the landscapes into an artistic painting because only the trees protrude above the water, giving a mirror effect thus making us lose the notion of right and wrong. THE show is all the more unbelievable when the sun is setting and that the colors of the latter are projected onto this bed of water.

Estelle Massé

Water mirror

Phenomenon of the Marais Poitevin evalle in Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud.

Unlike many floods, floods are not seen as a disaster. The water is just returning to the place it was long before Man developed the Marais Poitevin. The evaille is an important phenomenon particularly for the farmers of the marshes because this water is loaded with sediment thus making the ultra fertile land which is more than beneficial for crops!

A conch

A conch is wide, 4 to 8 meters and short, around a hundred meters. It serves the plots of a marsh.

A gutter

There's nothing funny about a gutter. It is a straight waterway several kilometers long, created to accelerate the flow of water.

A canal

A canal is a navigation route recently dug to regulate the course of the Sèvre.

A ditch

A ditch is narrow, 2 to 3 meters maximum and very short, less than 10 meters. It delimits the contours of a field.


In the Marais Poitevin, a lock is a water control structure located along the canals, which helps regulate the water level and control the flow of current. It is used to enable boats to navigate canals and waterways.

A plate

A flat is a traditional flat-bottomed boat. Its particular shape allows it to navigate in shallow waters, so it is ideal in a place like the Marais Poitevin.

A fool

The pigouille is a kind of oar but looks like a large wooden pole, allowing the Maraîchins and today the boatman guides to propel the boat through the waters of the Marais Poitevin.

Was this content useful to you?