The Hoge Kempen landscapes appear on the Unesco World Heritage List
On the border between Belgium and the Netherlands lies a peaceful haven surrounded by nature that extends over 403 hectares. It is the first Belgian cultural landscape to be recognised as a World Heritage Site.
In the 19th century, as a result of the Napoleonic wars, poverty affected a large part of the population of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Wortel colony was a small, free farming colony, where each family cultivated its own small plot of land with varying degrees of success. In 1870 it was acquired by the Belgian State with a view to transforming it into an Agricultural Colony of Benevolence housing, among others, poor families, orphans, the unemployed, individuals with disabilities and later vagrants and beggars, so that they could cultivate the land, attend school and receive medical care. But all this came at a price. The farmers were kept under close surveillance.
These colonies were created to fight poverty and fulfilled a social and judicial role, while at the same time allowing the development of local agriculture and forestry. Everything was well ordered and two hundred years later this landscape is still marked by the organisation of the time.
The colony's houses, institutions, farms and the roads still shape today's landscape. After being abandoned, the site has been redeveloped, allowing visitors to stroll through a vast estate where culture and nature are mixed with a slice of history.