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Kempens Landschap Exchange - March 2013
Kempens Landschap, one of the partners on the SHARE Programme, hosted a two-day exchange meeting in Belgium in March 2013. The 'Exchange' saw all six partners from the SHARE project meet in Antwerp to take part in a transnational exchange meeting, workshops and site visits. Kempens Landschap, who hosted the event, provided an introduction to their local projects, explained how they were leading on the restoration and redevelopment of two large former working farms that provided shelter and work for vagrants in Belgium. These two establishments, known as “colonies”, named Wortel and Merksplas are on the outskirts to the North East of Antwerp. They were started in 1822 and 1825 respectively but were closed in 1993. The buildings housed vagrants and prisoners as well as providing for livestock and storage of food and agricultural equipment. For 20 years these buildings were not maintained and as a consequence fell into disrepair. In 1997 Kempens Landschap was formed to protect and restore the “colonies” and in 1999 both were declared protected landscapes.
There is a detailed plan for the restoration and redevelopment of both areas. These involve professionals and volunteers. The plans include protecting the areas safeguarding the unique avenues of trees, making the area more accessible for walkers and cyclists, restoring the farmhouses, a guardhouse, a school and a chapel in Wortel, whilst renovating and caring for the graveyard of vagrants. The SHARE Project will assist with the restoration of the landscape and buildings as well as the interpretation of the history and culture of the area. This will involve training and research work which will conclude in a proposed book being written, capturing all the intangible stories of vagrants during their time at the facility.