This week, I had the pleasure of joining celebrations to mark the 75th jubilee of the Gelderland Trust in Arnhem. I first got to know this wonderful organisation when I ran the European Network of National Heritage Organisations (ENNHO), which – somewhat surprisingly – was partly inspired by the International Conference of National Trusts and a forerunner to INTO.
The Gelderland Trust participated in the ‘European Exchange Programmes’ in the 1990s and hosted the 7th ICNT in 1995 as well as ENNHO in 2000. In 2005-6, the National Trust and the Gelderland Trust were partners in the EU-funded ‘ECHo Project’ that looked at the future of the European Country House in the 21st century.
Geldersch Landschap en Kasteelen, as it is known in Dutch, was established in 1940 and after the Second World War many properties were given to the organisation which now owns 11,500 hectares of historical grounds, 32 castles, and 135 of the most beautiful spots in Gelderland.
The celebrations included congratulatory speeches by Harry K. Voigtsberger, President of the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung Naturschutz, Heimat- und Kulturpflege, and Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust (pictured left).
The NRW Foundation was established in 1986 under State Prime Minister Johannes Rau, whose wife had studied in the UK where she had discovered the National Trust … so the idea of a foundation for nature, home and culture was born. The Gelderland Trust has also been inspired by the National Trust approach over the years and there was a strong sense that the three organisations could learn more from each other, share experience and achieve new goals. Exciting stuff! You can read the news report here (in Dutch!).
During our time in Arnhem, we also had the chance to visit a number of Gelderland Trust properties: the vast and fabulous Doorwerth which suffered badly in World War II and was restored over 37 years into the beautiful water castle we see today. Doorwerth houses a number of musuems and has a 400 year old acacia tree with a circumfrence of 7 meters – as well as a glorious tea room! The recently restored Biljoen, dating from the 16th Century, which is now a fairytale family home, complete with a pair of black swans! And Cannenburch, confiscated from its German owners after the War and transferred to the Gelderland Trust for the symbolic price of one Dutch Guilder in 1951. The day we visited, Cannenburch was getting ready to host a wedding.
As the celebrations were for the ‘castles’ side of the organisation, our discussions focused on built heritage but the Trust is called Geldersch Landschap & Kasteelen and it believes firmly in connecting nature and culture, managing and repairing the landscape and its biodiversity as well as reuniting country houses with their surroundings.
Wonderful places, fabulous stories and lovely people! At the end, Helen did a short interview which summed up the visit – we saw excellence in conservation and curation alongside innovative and brave interpretation (an amazing animation at Cannenburch in which characters leave their paintings for a chat – all very Harry Potter!); terrific visitor facilities (shops, tea rooms) and enthusiastic and skillful staff. Fabulous, humbling and inspirational. Here’s to another 75 years, GLK!