Provincie Antwerpen



The old village centre of Weelde is the only surviving historical village centre in the municipality of Ravels. However, it was felt that more could be done to underline its history, enhance the landscape and introduce cohesion. The municipality and those living there were also keen to revitalize the stronghold (de Burcht) and to find a new use for the presbytery.

So the first step towards injecting new life into the old village centre (while respecting its history) and coming up with an overall vision for it was to draw up a master plan. Eventually steps were taken to implement some of the long-term objectives.

By means of a bottom-up approach and across-the-board participation, Weelde inhabitants, organizations and visitors were encouraged to provide the input and basis for this trajectory. Local participation had the effect of galvanizing community spirit. This innovative, collaborative approach, which re-established contact between the inhabitants and organizations of Weelde and the surrounding area and generated discussion about the countryside, the village and the historic centre of Weelde, led to a sense of ownership.  


At the end of 2008 Wuustwezel town council approached Kempens Landschap and asked us to look into the possibility of securing the future of the grounds of the convent of the Franciscan nuns. Much time and energy was then given to ensuring the sustainable conservation of the grounds as an entity, as a green lung for the community of Gooreind and as important religious heritage. In the next few years the former convent will be converted into a residential and care centre for the next generation. But first - with support from Europe - the graveyard of the Franciscan nuns was refurbished and made accessible to the public. For 200 years the Franciscan nuns were a constant presence in Gooreind. This project has enabled us to keep their history and their bond with the community alive. 


The tourist access project ‘Light in the Darkness’ was launched to bring the extraordinary history of the colonies back to life. Given the strong support for a record to be kept of the history, landscape, heritage, etc., in the first instance a ‘portfolio’ was compiled. It told the story of the colonies by means of fascinating images and short accompanying texts. The second part of the project comprised the registration, compilation and publication of oral heritage. Today there are still a few old vagrants and jailers living round about who each have a story to tell about life before, after and during the height of the former state humanitarianism colonies. To make the architectural heritage accessible, the necessary preparations were carried out for the restoration of the chapel, a real gem of nineteenth-century Kempen architecture. As part of this restoration project, alterations were made to allow the chapel to take advantage of the original, natural incidence of light, thereby restoring the historical concept of openness and vistas, essential for supervising the vagrants. 


After 100 years of Redemptorist priests in Essen, in 2003 the monastery faced a new challenge. With the help of Kempens Landschap, the grounds were opened to the public. In addition we and the partners on the site explored suitable new uses for the monastery and the church. To restore the grounds to their former glory, the first step was to implement the ‘Verdant Island’ project to rehabilitate the parkland. This took the form of restoring several all-important elements such as the pavilion, the graveyard and the Pater Godts chapel. Furthermore the backlog of management tasks was cleared by the time of the public event on August 3rd and 4th