Picture: Schipdonkcanal in winter.  

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Moerkerke castle
Altena castle

Waterhoek chapel
Sarepta chapel
Moerkerke church
Barrel canon WWII
Mon. battle "Molentje"

Castle Ryckevelde
Castle of Moerkerke
Castle of Oostkerke

Castle Altena

Location: Altenaweg, 8340 Moerkerke [gps]
Accessibility: not accessible (private property)

The history
The area of the castle of Altena was probably already inhabited in the 13th century.  The first written mention of Altena itself dates back to the 14th century.  The story goes that the chateau finds its origin at the time of Gwijde of Dampierre, count of Flanders.  German soldiers from the count von Altena fought alongside the count of Flanders against the French king (1297 - 1302).  To show his gratitude, Gwijde granted this domain to the German soldiers.   The count of Altena had a fief obligation to the Flemish count.  The fiefdom of Altena had an acreage of 19 hectares; the castle with garden measured about 1 hectare and was surrounded by a ditch.  An old avenue of oak trees gives access to the domain.

The castle
The present castle was built in neo-roccoco style and dates back to 1927.  It was a popular style at that time but it is very uncommon in the polder area.  Remarkable are the rocailles on the windows and the richly decorated porch.  The mansarde roof leans more towards the baroque style.  The castle was built with money from the reparation fund that Germany had to finance as compensation for the war damages, after the previous castle was burnt to the ground in 1918. 
The first castle had very modest dimensions; its construction date is not known (13th or 14th century?).  This house stood there till the beginning of the 18th century.  Then it was replaced by a new chateau with French garden.  It only lasted a good century before a third castle was built by the end of the 19th century.  This third one was erected in ecclectic style on the order of Thibault de Boesinghe.  It was a so-called "romantic" mansion in an English landscape garden.  It remained until 1918 (see above) but the garden is still the same. 

The garden
At the time of the first castle you could hardly speak about a garden.  The largest part of the domain was taken up by an extensive orchard.  It was only in the the 18th century at the construction of the second castle that a French garden was laid out.  This garden was by defenition a very symetrical one with perfectly cut hedges and square parterres.  Nevertheless, the orchard kept about 3/4 of its surface.   
The current English botanical landscape garden was shaped when the third mansion was constructed.  This garden is now one of the most remarkable and most exclusive in the area.  You can see here a vast number of indigenous and exotic plants and trees.  A limited list for the amateurs: various species of oak, beech, lime-trees, chestnut, a giant catalpa, atlascedar, sequoia, robinia, tree of heaven (ailanthus), Japanese cypress, yew-tree, medlar,...   

In a corner of the domain, there still is an icehouse.  This cellar was built to keep food and beverages cool.  Due to the constant temperature and the excellent isolation it could be stored for a long time.  During winter, ice was cut from the pond and dumped in the icehouse.  This ice could last until August.  The invention of  the refrigerator made the concept of icehouses obsolete.  As a consequence, many icehouses disappeared.  This one in Altena survived and is now a shelter for bats.

 Den Hoorn


Hendrik De Leyn -