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Niort - The paths of Sainte-Pezenne

An invitation to explore nature and culture along the river, just a stone's throw from Niort!



Historique, Nature (faune, flore)

In the 4th century, Pezenne, a young nun pursued by a barbarian chieftain, came to a cave to die, exhausted. It is claimed that Clovis, after 507, contributed with his donations to the erection of a sanctuary over the saint's tomb. The original church, built on the site of a temple dedicated to Thor, was rebuilt in the 11th and 12th centuries. The commune, whose church is listed, merged with Niort in 1965. The area has now become an experimental site for disabled access to public spaces.

Have a good walk and remember that you are not alone on the paths you are going to take. We invite you to respect nature: avoid picking flowers and plants, do not leave any rubbish behind, respect inhabited areas, stay on the paths, keep dogs on a leash.

-> Unmarked route

Niort - The paths of Sainte-Pezenne

Distance : 6.8 km

Step 1: Fontaine des Amourettes

In the 14th century, a young girl from the village of Ste-Pezenne and the son of the powerful lord of Surimeau made a promise to each other on these paths along the banks of the Sèvre. But the lord vehemently opposed the marriage and the "viergeotte" went off in despair to weep for the rest of her life at the place where they had met. The Amourettes fountain is said to have been born of her tears.

Step 2: Lavoir de la fontaine des morts

Apart from the weekly wash, the big wash or "bugée" was only done once a year and the women got together for the occasion. After boiling the washing in a "ponne" with ash, they would go to the washhouse to rinse the "bujaille". Sitting in a saddle to protect their knees and armed with a beater to wring out the washing, discussions were lively around the washhouse at the Fountain of the Dead, so named because it was situated below the cemetery. The day often ended with a meal and the "bugée" became almost a popular festival, "a women's festival", as the more optimistic described it. On 9 August 1837, the Ste-Pezenne town council bought three acres of land for the washhouse. The washerwomen were delighted, as they no longer had to walk all the way down to the Sèvre.

Step 3: La passerelle de Sainte-Pezenne

Take the footbridge and you'll be transported back in time to a century ago, when soldiers from the Duguesclin barracks once again came to dance and drink at the waterside guinguette and to count their flowers on the chemin des Amourettes. This metal structure was built in 1880 to "facilitate relations between the Sainte-Pezenne district and the town of Niort", which contributed 50 francs to its construction.

Step 4: Coquelonne, un royaume pour une flore et une faune aquatiques

Coquelonne, on the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise, is a little paradise on earth for the local natural heritage (yellow water lily, bastard iris, meadowsweet, comfrey, eel, pike, perch, bream, swan, grey heron, mallard, moorhen, kingfisher, etc.). In the eponymous Rue, 30 m from the Plaisance footbridge, a guinguette was opened in 1948. Run by the Guénet family, in addition to the dance floor, it offered pedalo hire in the 1960s. Bought out several times, the wooden guinguette was transformed into a nightclub in 1973.

Step 5: Moulin d'Ane de Surimeau

The Moulin d'Âne is located in the Rue du Moulin d'Âne at the entrance to the Surimeau bridge, linking the Sainte-Pezenne and Surimeau districts. The name given to this mill has changed considerably over the centuries, but it seems that a common root to all these names has survived the passage of time.

Step 6: Le bois des Touches

Soak up the woodland atmosphere created by the large ash trees, sycamore maples and hazel coppice. In May, breathe in the carpets of bear's garlic in flower, the scent of blooming hyacinths and honeysuckle. Listen to the songs of tits, warblers and orioles, the chattering of the oak jay and the drumming of the great spotted woodpecker. In autumn, taste the hazelnuts that have fallen to the ground before the squirrels feast on them. The Bois des Touches is a haven for a rich and diverse flora and fauna, and has been classified to preserve it.

Step 7: Biefs et moulins

Watch as the Sèvre Niortaise peacefully flows by, only to suddenly spill over in a gentle cascade... This is a causeway, a stone dam that partially diverts the watercourse to power the mill wheels downstream. On 7 April 1864, the Prefect of Deux-Sèvres authorised the four owners of the Sainte-Pezenne mills - Compéré, Anne, Bégrolles and Grange - to undertake work to channel the course of the river as far as their mill. It was still the golden age of the Sèvre mills, which transformed the wheat harvested on the plateaux into white flour that was exported as far as the West Indies! After the First World War, the arrival of electric flour mills led to the disappearance of the mills. Upstream of the Moulin d'Anne, the reach was converted into a municipal swimming pool. Imagine bathers in one-piece suits, wooden cabins and diving boards!

Step 8: Château de Chantemerle

Beyond the gates, a castle straight out of Perrault's fairy tales... Built in the 19th century, Château de Chantemerle nevertheless has 17th-century architecture. The theatrical aspect and surprise effects of Baroque art are sought after. Take a look at the balcony supported by sculpted brackets and the central bay marked by a triple window decorated with a garland. The most spectacular feature is undoubtedly the four false corner towers marked by a projection that gives this modest-sized castle all the scale and prestige of great monuments. Several outbuildings add to the cachet of this local heritage: a long avenue of stables and outbuildings, the remains of a chapel, an orangery and a horse-gear, visible from a gate below, which was used to lift water from the Sèvre.

Step 9: Site d’exploitation du lycée professionnel horticole régional

Opened in 2005. Production of fruit and ornamental trees, hedge shrubs and flowers. On 4 ha: 10,000 m2 of open-ground cultivation; 6,000 m2 of platform for container cultivation; 2 greenhouses of 400 m2; a cold room for storing cut flowers and floral arrangements; a building comprising a sales greenhouse, an operations building with changing rooms and classrooms, a meeting room and staff accommodation! A water recycling and irrigation system, "a first in France", saves 80,000 m3 of water!

Step 10: Table d’orientation

From right to left, the churches of Ste-Pezenne, St-Etienne and Notre-Dame, Niort Town Hall, the Donjon, the church of St-André, the former Duguesclin barracks, the church of St-Hilaire, the Deux-Sèvres Departmental Archives, the Caisse d'Allocations Familiales and the Château de Beure-Baillon.

Step 11: Vue sur le château de Burbaillon

This château was built in the French 18th-century style by Pierre-Théophile Segrétain, the 1st architect in the Deux-Sèvres department to designate historic monuments. It belonged to Louis Arnauldet, a friend of Segrétain, president of the Niort civil court, Niort town councillor and Deux-Sèvres deputy in the 19th century.

Step 12: Chemin de la Mariée

As soon as the religious ceremony was over, the bridal procession left the church and escorted the bride to a platform high up on the plateau. It was customary for the bride to dance on a carpet of thyme so that she would always have plenty of milk for her offspring. The guests would share the cake or the blessed bread and then set off on an almost solemn walk along a precise route, known for this reason as the Bride's Way, without which the beautiful woman would have no offspring!

Step 13: Croix du Vignau(lt)

These small monuments have existed since the advent of Christianity. They are used for many purposes: roadside crosses serving as landmarks for travellers, crosses of justice marking the location of the gallows, cemetery crosses replaced or supplemented by a cross of the dead or a lantern of the dead, crosses of the square to moralise the commercial transactions taking place nearby, commemorations often due to war or banditry, pilgrimages, missions, jubilees, crosses marking the location of a defunct religious building, etc.

Step 14: Eglise Sancta Peccina

It is the oldest church in Niort. The original building, built on the site of a pagan temple dedicated to Thor, was rebuilt from the end of the 11th century to the beginning of the 12th century, altered from the 15th century to the 20th century, and listed in 2003. At the time of Clovis, the nun Pezenne fled her native Spain to Aquitaine, where persecution reigned. After walking for a long time with her companions Macrine and Colombe, she died of exhaustion on a hillside overlooking the Sèvre Niortaise. Miraculous cures around her tomb led to a popular pilgrimage. In 1147, on the occasion of the Second Crusade, Eleanor of Aquitaine donated the remains to the Count of Vermandois, who took them to Saint-Quentin in northern France. The town was taken in 1557 by the army of Philip II of Spain. The emperor gave the relic to his sister, the Empress of Germany.

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