St Paul is now the county's official walking centre

In June 2011 'La Maison de la Randonnée' was opened in St Paul en Gâtine, half a mile from the gîtes. Our district was chosen because it has so many local walks which crisscross the undulating countryside (a rise and fall of 118 metres) and because the 'Big Walk' (GR364) passes through the village.

The new building has a lovely view from the covered balcony. It has an indoor room with information about all the local routes and a block of toilets. It has just had a hitching rail installed for those on an excursion on horseback. It is meant to provide a gathering point for local walks and a rest-stop for people on longer hikes which pass this way. It is therefore never locked. The new building is the start of 4 newly marked circular walks (3.5, 8, 11 and 13km) and 2 bike trails: a blue route of 18km and a black route of 35km. In the county there are 220km of marked-out routes, and there are many more nearby in the Vendee, so once you have sampled the St Paul ones you can try some of the others nearby.

Gites from road Maison de la Randonnee Maison de la Randonnee Walk stop at the lavoir

Cycling and trail biking

There are 8 bikes in the barn from children's to adults. You are welcome to borrow them but bear in mind that they are not new and you use them at your own risk. All of the marked walking routes are open to cyclists as well as walkers. Don't forget it is very hilly around the gîtes so you need good leg muscles! For those wanting to work up an appetite for their breakfast by fetching the croissants by bike it is 3.7km to the supermarket or 3.9km to the boulangerie! Those of you with cycle racks have a lot of choice of cycle routes in the region. Mervent (about 12km away) has well marked trails through lovely woodlands. The Main family did Faymoreau to Vouvant (39km) - "brilliantly signposted all the way" - and a circular tour from Vouvant to Mervant and back (31km). Another pleasant set of cycle trails is down in the Marais Poitevin alongside the canals (about 40km away) but everyone says the signposting is misleading so watch out! I have just completed a small building where you can leave your bikes locked away securely when not in use.

Why not bring your dog?

Dogs are welcome at La Chandurière and the nice thing about the local walks is that the majority are off-road for much of the time, so your dog can investigate at leisure instead of being on a lead. The commune has started to organize regular walks of 8-10 Km, entry € 1 with wine/soft drinks and biscuits/cake at the end but dogs are usually on leads for these. (I don't know how they provide the refreshments for one euro!) These take place once a month on Sundays and start at 2pm from different places in the locality. In the summer the committee organizes extra walks twice a month on Friday evenings, starting around 7pm and these often have some special touch: for the last one the walkers were accompanied the last mile by a brilliant New Orleans Band who stayed to serenade us as we drank our aperitifs!

I will be happy to show you some of the shorter walks but don't expect me to guide you on any over 10km. I'm pretty much finished by 8 and struggle the last 2! Any longer and you will need your maps!! (laminated maps of many of the walks are in the gîtes)

If your dog is used to jumping on furniture (mine isn't but I know some dogs are) please bring throws to protect the upholstery.

Families who go out for long days in the summer often need to leave their dogs behind. It is not appropriate to leave a dog in a gîte for hours somy new building doubles as a kennel, providing shade indoors where they can have their bed, water and food. There is a dog-size opening onto a decent length run for exercise or a roll on the grass