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Baron Axel Bonaert inherits a 17th century garden & estate, both a family legacy and a modern day burden, at Freyr Castle, Belgium




Coming from a line of 20 generations, Axel Bonaert is one the "inheritors" and Baron of the Castle and Gardens of Freyr in Belgium. During his young adulthood, he left Belgium to study engineering in the United States, only to return to his homeland five years later, to discover his mother had a hard time in restoring and caring for the family estate due to suffering from leukemia. Axel and his wife Marie-josephe realized that they too had a responsibility to the Castle and Garden and would subsequently devote themselves to the maintenance of their ancestral place, Axel in the garden and Marie-Joseph in the house.

Twenty generations later, Axel Bonaert, an engineer by trade, visits the Gardens of Freyr every weekend and holidays in order to maintain the property of his ancestors. Upon the death of his mother, the family decided that they could no longer care for the estate on their own due to the high taxes and the cost of maintenance. A foundation was therefore established headed by Axel Bonaert’s uncle, the Count John of Laubespin. Today, the foundation has twenty family members and five non-family members. This enables the family to be actively involved in the running of the estate, but the burden of the expense is held by the Foundation which depends on donations, [[#|grants]] and tours to raise money to maintain the grandeur and beauty of this piece of history.

The Garden:
In the region of Ardennes, Belgium, Baron Axel Bonaert’s family has been landholders for more than six hundred years. The property titled "Chateau of Freyr" is noted to have one of the fairy tale gardens in [[#|Western Europe]]. The gardens, which consist of a collection of orange trees more than 300 years old," as well as six acres of hedges, flowers and fountain were designed by two brothers Beaufort-Spontin in 1760, one was a Canon and the other a Free Mason. They succeeded in creating two gardens of contrasting aspects, one is spiritual, a cloister garden and one is carnal: a maze with geometric shapes. To this day, these gardens persist and have been tended by the long line of their descendants.

Originally there was a medieval castle on the land, which in 1554 was replaced by a Renaissance country house. Less than one hundred years later this was enlarged to its present structure, a four winged building with an inner courtyard. In the middle of the eighteenth century, this house was refitted to be the Beaufort-Spontin summer ducal residence.
From 1914-1918, the Germans occupied the castle and Axel_s great grandmother was forced to live in two small rooms at the back of the castle. She refused to leave. In 1940, when the Germans once again took Belgium, she was forced to leave against her will.
After the Second World War, the gardens were simplified to keep the maintenance costs in balance. Therefore, the 18th century closed garden and vegetable garden located upstream were abandoned .
Downstream, the height of the inner edges was lowered and [[#|flowers]] suppressed. But the essential has survived, but up to when?

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