Not surprisingly, very few people do not ascribe a great heart for nature to the current owners of the former court of the well-known industrialist Henry Ackermans. In October dozens of beech trees went to the ax in the woods and along the meadows at ‘s-Gravenwezelsteenweg, opposite the Hof ter Pull, with heavy equipment and in full view of thousands of passers-by. It wasn’t the first “major cleanup” of the old green spaces in this area.
“An indispensable evil and fully authorized by the Flemish Environment Minister Sahel Demir (N-VA),” Erwin Behrens presents a 54-page collection. “This is our nature management plan, and it is valid for 24 years. It is full of measures to optimally preserve all the paths, canals, forests and farmland that make up the Hof ter Pull. It replaces all separate permits that might otherwise be required.”
“It was approved at the end of 2020, but we started preparations seven years ago. I contacted the help of specialists from Avantgarden from Wijnegem, among others. All possible authorities, including the municipalities of Scheld and Wijnegem, were asked to give advice, despite what some politicians claim locals now.”
Hand over his heart, Irwin Berens claims that he and his nature-loving wife, Andre, have only one goal in mind. “We want to keep our field as green and healthy as possible for future generations, including our children. I hope I can still experience the final implementation of the established management plan. I will be 84 by then. Not all regulations hold our own preference. For example We’d rather leave more rhododendrons. But we do everything by book.”
It annoys the castle lord that people always react with prejudice when another 140-year-old beech tree falls. “I think that’s too bad, but if I don’t do it now, those trees damaged by the wet surface will soon fall onto the track and people will be injured or worse. I can no longer count damage claims for alleged damage to vehicles,” says Berens.
“Every twig cut here in the last two years has been approved by the Nature and Forest Agency. As you can see today, we are not stopping there. The Nature Management Plan has pages full of planting programs for our sixty-hectare area. We are now systematically implementing them Last year, after thinning earlier, 250 trees were added to the forest along the Broekstraat. Now I am planting another two hundred between Galgenstraat and ‘s-Gravenwezelsteenweg. It mainly concerns bog oaks and oaks. The soil is very wet and these species are more resistant to that “.
Trunks relatively thick
Of course, it will take a long time before the new trees look the same as the giant trees that have been felled. “But they are not twigs,” explains Erwin Berens stump when Gil van Riemdonk of Pristine Gardens of Shield helps plant. “We deliberately choose a trunk circumference of 16 to 18 cm. Also to prevent deer and rabbits from destroying the plant matter. These oaks are already fifteen years old. So they are not cheap. I estimate that we have invested more than 200,000 euros in the maintenance of the Hove ter Pole garden in the two years.” Only the last two.”
The job is far from finished. Next year, it will be the turn of several forests and agricultural areas between the Broekstraat and the Schijn and Victor Frislei watercourses. These are the areas where Erwin Berens sometimes hunts, but mainly goes for walks with his two dogs, Taco and Loeb.
“I would do that mitigation with slight reluctance because the deer would temporarily lose their hiding place and move on. But this has also been imposed on us, and so we are doing well. However, what I objected to was the administrative procedure of filling back in the earth the cleared tile ducts because it is supposed to It would be better for some salamanders. ‘Everything is cumbersome and costly,’ said the lord of the castle.
This is what bothers Erwin Berens the most. Many people, especially in government and in politics, talk about how things work, but do nothing themselves. Look at the county. They have owned the field for eleven years, but apart from organizing a few garden shows, have done nothing with it in terms of management. Make plans, yeah. But do they perform too? Our society only benefits from actors. There are a lot of people selling gossip.”
He answered negatively our last question to Erwin and Andrée Beerens about whether they sometimes consider opening their private domain to the general public. “I know from my fellow large landowners that visitors show little or no respect and that much valuable green space will then be destroyed. Friends are welcome here, but we prefer to keep the gate closed to others,” Berens says as he bids farewell.