This article was written in cooperation with Margot Leemans and Alec van Havre.
After his industrial career, Alan inherited part of his ancestor’s estate, “Scherpenbergen – De Hutten”, 30 years ago and doubled its size by acquisition.
He grew up there as a child and still has beautiful memories of his youth at the estate, where he was intrigued by nature and the landscapes.
As he grew older, he took forestry and nature conservancy classes and passed his hunting exams.
His childhood memories and continued interest formed his fondness for the location, which is of utter importance for the continuation to safeguard such rural businesses for the next generations to come. Indeed, the estate has been in the family for several generations.
How to unlock the natural potential of the area
Fern growing in a wet forest (top left), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) occurs in wet grasslands and fens (top right) and a field on Alan’s land (bottom). Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele
When Alan took over the management, he started to take care of the overdue management of the forests. The pine trees were cleared out to allow more light to pierce through to the bottom, providing light for low shrubs and plants to grow. The heather that disappeared started forming a new purple carpet under the trees. There was also a natural regeneration of the oak-birch forest.
Step by step, Alan transformed the uniform pine tree forests into a heterogenous complex of pines and indigenous hardwoods. With is work, he transformed the former poplar forests lower in the valley into alder and willow forests.
Pine trees on land dunes. (left) Creating open spaces in the pine forest. (right) Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele.
Cross-leaved heather. (left) Sundew (Drosera) is a carnivorous plant that just caught a dragonfly. (right) Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele
Alan checking a heather plant. Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele.
The scarlet dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) likes to sit in the sun along puddles. (top left) Alan explains the hydrological system and plants in the bog. (top right) Marsh St John’s worth (Hypericum elodes), with flowers smelling like resin, growing in acidic conditions, typically around bog pools. (bellow) Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele
The Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) is a butterfly typical for dune areas and dry grasslands. The caterpillar survives only on violin species. (left) Heath spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculate) is a rare species that occurs in marshes, heather or semi-natural grassland with low acidity. (right) Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele
Good quality compost from grassland waste. Photo credit: Valérie Vandenabeele
The Contact Point for Private Management – Nature and Forest (APB-NB) was established in 2014 as an umbrella
organization of the Flemish Forest Groups and the Flemish Landowners Organisation. The purpose of the APB-NB
is to take the role of focal point for private managers willing to contribute to European nature objectives. The APBNB
provides two-way information between the government and individual private site managers. The APB-NB
provides a customized service for the individual private site manager. The APB-NB is also responsible for policy
development, advice, communication, research, guidance and information.