Student - January 20, 2010

Picture perfect park

VHL students use picture frames to find out what visitors think of the Huys te Warmont country estate. The 'Dream Meadow' in particular tugs at the heartstrings.

Silvie Vlasveld and Raymond van Es comment on the Huys Estate in Warmont.
We're more of a beach people actually, says Silvie Vlasveld and Raymond van Es, as they stroll across the small 23-hectare Huys te Warmont estate, near Leiden. 'It's not the forest; it's us. I used to visit the beach very often, and that means more to me', explains Vlasveld.
The couple is here at the recommendation of their neighbour. 'It's beautiful here, out of reach of the hustle and bustle of the Randstad and yet not far away.' The two of them are standing in front of a big picture frame, pondering on which is the most beautiful part of this park. They take a small piece of paper and write on it: the view of the water and the houseboats. Eelke van den Ouweelen also finds this view beautiful. He gives the park a score of seven and a half, but changes his mind when writing the score down on paper. 'No, it has to be an eight.'
The picture frame project is the brainchild of three students of Van Hall Larenstein. They have to devise a new way to contact visitors in the park. 'We had written down many ideas but the right one hadn't come along', relates student Paul Kah. 'until I awoke suddenly one night and thought: this is it. A total of seven picture frames with sayings have been positioned in the park. Visitors can add to the sayings by writing their opinions on a piece of paper which they then pin onto the frames. When that's done, they are given their own picture frame to place at the most beautiful area of the park.
'It's actually a form of management evaluation', says Kah. Maarten van de Valk, manager of the South Holland Landscape Foundation, is the students' supervisor. 'We have changed our way of management. A few years ago, the nature was given free reign. This had caused the forest to deteriorate in the eyes of many. Visitor numbers dwindled. We've now decided to portray cultivation history again. The forest has been made more open and the lanes will be tidied up. We're curious what visitors will think of this.'
Almost every visitor agrees to the attention being given to cultivation and history. The Droomweide forest area is the only bone of contention. The South Holland Landscape Foundation has made the area more open. Some visitors like this very much, while others feel that tree-cutting has deprived the area of its element of surprise. 'There isn't much to be dreamed about anymore. It used to be a so-called unknown area tugged away somewhere, where everyone stumbled into. I'm placing my picture frame there, but I'm drawing the trees back', says Ard van der Steur.