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History: a gulf

A landscape sculpted by the hand of man.

XIIIth Century

The XIIIth century is the golden age of the ancient Picton Gulf's conquest, which over the years has become the Marais Poitevin that we know today. Five monasteries have shaped the landscape of this vast marshland area on the doorstep of Niort by digging out the canal “des cinq abbés” (“the canal of the 5 abbots”) and that of “le roi” (“canal of the king”), considered today as the keystone of the drainage and cleaning up of the largest wetzone in Western France.


Given the title of the Kingdom's Dykes and Canals Grand Master by Henri IV, the Dutch engineer Humphrey Bradley modernised the work of the monks in 1599. This improvement was continued by Louis XIII and Louis XIV, before falling a little bit by the wayside.


In 1808, Napoleon 1st had the river Sèvre Niortaise cleaned out and widened. The river is the backbone of the marshlands. This work reduced flooding and improved navigation for the barges and flat boats between Niort and the ports open to the Atlantic.


Today, those who have inherited this natural monument have set themselves the challenge of safeguarding the landscapes made of channels and canals with their banks lined with pollarded ash trees.

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