The 25 hectare castle park was designed and built in 1873 in English landscape style. The intention of its clients, the Graven de Kerchove de Denterghem, was to use the park as a showcase for the then still very young Ghent plant cultivation. Today, the domain is still in the hands of the same family. It is maintained throughout the year in function of the internationally renowned Beervelde Garden Festival that take place in mid-May and mid-October and are also very popular with young couples with wedding plans, looking for a fairytale setting.
The basic idea is to bring, in a relatively small area, all of the elements together that one would want in an ideal landscape: romantic views; gently rolling meadows; the illusion of a clearing in a forest; winding paths; erratic water features; bridges; fairy tale buildings etc.
The rule is: “Everything is manmade, but it must appear to be natural.” The original construction and the current maintenance in Beervelde correspond perfectly to this vision. In contrast to the landscape of the region, which is flat and linear, an idealised landscape can be found in the park. In the distance, without being too far away, you can see an island in the middle of a lake fed by a river that meanders its way through rolling grasslands.
The same rule " Everything is manmade, but it must appear to be natural" is also applied in the wooded area. The work that is done must remain invisible. The English use the name woodland gardening for this.
Through intense, but invisible interventions for the visitor, a large variety of biotopes is maintained. Such a variety can’t be found spontaneously in nature in such a small place. The result of these efforts not only provides suitable biotopes for a great diversity of plants and animals, but also an aesthetically very pleasant walk.
Here the visitor can taste the different atmospheres that a forest has to offer and this without having to walk too far. This part of the Park is most interesting during the flowering of the stins plants (daffodils and many forest plants) in April and the azaleas in May. Most of these azaleas belong to the -historically important- group of the hard Ghent azaleas (called hardy Ghent in England, pontica hybrids in the Netherlands).
Three buildings catch the eye
The villa was built on the spot where the castle used to stand. In 1947 the castle (70 years after its construction) was demolished because it was considered as not very comfortable. On the foundations, a family house was built which may be proportional to the site, but in the meantime (60 years later) also appears to be uncomfortable.
In 1966, Roger Raveel, Elias, Lucassen and Raoul De Keyser transformed the basement hallways into a three-dimensional work of art in which reality (the visitors for example) and painting merge unnoticed. Today, one wonders whether this (now crumbling) work should be regarded as a temporary "installation" or something that needs to be restored.
The Coach house
The castle-like coach house is an attractive ensemble of buildings with Tudor style features around a charming courtyard. You can see where the horses and carriages used to be and where cows were kept. Now often the setting for beautiful parties and events.
Many visitors wonder what the function of this pavilion is. Although there are documents that prove that this construction was once used as a pool house, the building was probably only intended as an eye-catcher in the created landscape.
The current inhabitants, Count Renaud and Countess Valérie de Kerchove de Denterghem, do their utmost to preserve the park and buildings. Since 1995, the park has been protected as a monument.
In 1843 Charles, descendant of an old family of large landowners and later second Earl, de Kerchove de Denterghem (1819-1882) married Eugénie de Limon de Steenbrugghe (1824-1899), the eldest daughter of Thérèse de Limon. Thérèse died on 14 May 1872, after which Charles and Eugénie came into possession of extensive farmlands and the dilapidated country residence in Beervelde.
Count Charles and Countess Eugénie had a new and larger castle built next to the dilapidated castle, based on a design by Théophile Bureau (1827-1884). The Brussels landscape architect of German origin Louis Fuchs (1818-1904) was commissioned to transform the fields and woods around the castle into a park. This was not an easy task.
The irregular piece of land that was given to him was squeezed between the village of Beervelde, the road to the neighbouring village of Lochristi, the new paved road to Zaffelare (current Beerveldsebaan) and the railway Ghent-Antwerp. The urgency with which the whole project was set in motion suggests that one had already started planning before the death of Thérèse de Limon. In 1870 the duo Fuchs Bureau worked together on the legendary Ghent winter garden of Count de Kerchove de Denterghem.
It can' t be excluded that the eldest son Oswald (later third Count) de Kerchove de Denterghem (1844-1906) had an important influence in the design of the park. Oswald managed to combine a political career, in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, with extensive botanical activities. All the Kerchoves were and still are plant lovers. Oswald was more. Despite his law studies, he was a true botanist. He wrote articles on numerous subjects, but remains mainly known for his impressive books on palms and orchids.
He admired the parks of Prince Hermann Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871) and was a supporter of his mixed style: symmetrical near the house, irregular in the rest of the domain. A style that met the desire to create flower beds in a landscape park.
Since 1875, members of the family de Kerchove de Denterghem have held, almost continuously, the presidency of the Royal Society for Agriculture and Botany, the founder of the five-yearly Ghent Flower Show. The azalea collection of Charles and Eugénie, later also the collection of Oswald, was famous. The names of late 19th-century varieties of the Ghent pride, the Azalea Indica (now Rhododendron simsii), remind us of the prestige that the family de Kerchove de Denterghem enjoyed among Ghent floriculture growers. Several cultivators won prizes with varieties such as Mademoiselle Louise de Kerchove, Président Comte Oswald de Kerchove, ... Also cultivars of other plants were named after members of the family de Kerchove.
Count Oswald died in 1906. After the death of his widow in 1918, the castle of Beervelde became the property of their only son André (1885-1945), the youngest of the four children.
In Beervelde the castle had survived the Second World War, although damaged. Like many other castles, it would not survive modern times. It had an enormous volume of almost 10,000 m³. Moreover, the picturesque style in which it was built was very expensive to maintain due to its architectural detailing. After the war the castle was demolished and in 1950 a distinguished, more practical country house was built on the foundations. Still under Charles, fifth Count, de Kerchove de Denterghem, the basements of the manor house, in fact remains of the castle of 1873, were decorated by Roger Raveel in 1966-67. Together with some friends, he created an intriguing work of art, in which the garden participates in a remarkable way.
Since the death of Count Charles, his second son, Count Renaud de Kerchove de Denterghem, takes care of the park. It proved impossible to maintain the park without opening it up in an economically responsible manner. Count Renaud found his inspiration in the neighbourhood of Paris, where the Fustier family has been organising the 'Journées des Plantes' on the Courson domain since 1982.
By Erlend Hamerlijnck