In the 1930s, Jozef Springael, his wife Agnes Derdelinckx and their four children lived in the small farmhouse (that still stands today!) on the corner of the Hallerbos (“Halle Forest”) and Kleinheide (“Little Prairie”) roads in Halle. Their home sat on the hilltop overlooking their vast property of lush pastures and swaying meadows that stretched to the border of the seemingly endless 500-hectare Hallerbos Forest. They tended their animals, vegetable crops and fields of grains and nurtured fruit orchards and a beautiful flower garden.
When Jozef passed away in 1964, the land was divided among his children. His son Jan and Jan’s wife Eugenie De Maere inherited the orchards and land of Kleinheide 2. As a surprise gift for her husband, Eugenie bought a model house from the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair to place on the Kleinheide 2 property. Jan and his sons, Jan Jr., Hendrik, Pauwel and Baudewijn, began building the house in the 1970s. But in 1974, as fate would unfortunately have it, Jan died suddenly before finishing the family’s dream house. Jan Jr., Hendrik, Pauwel and Baudewijn carried on though and finished building the home for their mother. Eugenie and the boys lived in the home and took care of their aging grandmother Agnes in the farmhouse next door until the 1980s when Agnes moved to a rest home and Eugenie then moved to a smaller home as her boys had grown into men with their own homes. The house on Kleinheide 2 was rented by Hendrik, his wife Joske Decreton and their children. The kids decorated their rooms with hand-painted Tintin Belgian cartoon images!
One morning in the spring of 1995, my husband Jaak drove by Kleinheide 2 just at the moment when Hendrik was putting up a “Landhuis Te Koop” (Country House For Sale) sign. Jaak called me at my office at the European Parliament and said “You have to come here immediately! I’ve found our dream house!”. When I arrived, I instantly fell in love with the amazing view over the Hallerbos Forest and the fact that I could go out the front door and literally walk into it! We bought the house at Kleinheide 2 that evening!
The house needed quite a bit of work – the downstairs where our living room is now, was a stable for farm animals! – but with the help of great friends and family (paid in food, drinks and a lot of laughter!) we fully renovated the house and garden. And after 10 years of work, we finally bought reclining garden chairs and could just relax in the garden on the weekends.
Through it all, Kleinheide 2 became our home. Our daughters Celine and Alex were born and raised here. And we have literally thousands of wonderful memories of our times together here over the past 30 years with our 37-member De Cort family, our 27-member “Gite Group” of friends, Celine and Alex’s scouts groups and friends, Jaak’s football team and their families and my work colleagues and their families. We’ve celebrated with Easter egg hunts, communions, spring walks through the hyacinth flowers, summer BBQs and pool parties, autumn forest walks, Halloween campfires, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, new years’ celebrations, birthdays, wedding parties, team retreats, just chilling on the back terrace and so much more!
In July 2019, following an intervention led by Alex and Celine, I had what I now call a “spiritual awakening” 😉 that led me to reassess my work/life balance. It was a logical and natural choice to turn our family’s hobby into our family business. And it actually takes Jaak and I back to our original roots and passions in cooking and hospitality – I was a chef in several top restaurants during university and Jaak started working at his father’s top restaurant in Brussels at the age of 14 and continued to work in the hospitality sector to varying degrees most of his life.
In August 2020, we started the transformation of our home into Hallerbos B&B. This B&B has been made with love, brick by brick, board by board, by Jaak, his business partner and neighbour Patrick Van Roy. And I could not have done the interior without the invaluable advice of Manuelle Van den Brande of SHADE – House of Color. And many, many of our friends and family chipped in along the way. My heartfelt thanks goes to each and every one of you, with a special shout out for Alex and Celine De Cort, Scouts Sint-Rochus, Thierry Lemmens, Ali Seck and Nathan Felis, for making my dreams come true!
As we prepare to open our doors in November, Hallerbos B&B has really come full circle – and this gave us all goosebumps and tears! A few weeks ago, our family discovered the amazingly delicious and super cosy TWA é MWA restaurant in Halle’s town centre. We loved it so much that we asked the owners – Ben and Nathalie – if we could include them in our dinner suggestions for our guests. As I was explaining where Hallerbos B&B is located, Ben said “On Kleinheide? Number 2 Kleinheide? My great-grandparents Jozef and Agnes owned that land and I used to live in that house with my dad and stepmom Hendrik and Joske!” Talk about serendipity!
I visited Joske recently to collect some Springael family photos for this blog post and to take a trip down memory lane. During our conversation, she told me that Jan Jr. and his wife Armande founded Halle’s famous Mokkadis Traditional Coffee Roaster House and Cafe in 2000. They roasted with a classic bulb roaster, one of the first industrialised coffee roasteries in Belgium. Their Mokkadis coffee is an officially recognised Flemish-Brabant Regional Product (“Erkend Vlaams-Brabants Streekproduct”) and the Mokkadis Cafe is one of the top coffee shops in Pajottenland. Since August 2018, Serge and Cindy Van Cauter own Mokkadis and continue roasting coffee in the same traditional way.
Coming full circle from our origins, Hallerbos B&B is proud to keep the original Springael owners’ spirit alive at Kleinheide 2 by having the pleasure of serving our guests delicious Mokkadis coffee alongside Halle’s Brander Roastery Coffee.
All the best,
More Melissa’s Meanderings
Our story is not just that we’re a new B&B in Halle – there is so much more to us than that! We operate using two core concepts: First of all, we want our guests to have great experiences from the moment they walk into the front yard of Hallerbos B&B until the moment they leave us. Secondly, we want those experiences to be made by nature, home-made or locally-made and environmentally sustainable.
Hallerbos B&B’s story began in the 1960s. This photo story takes you from the first stone and through the years we renovated Kleinheide 2 first into our home and then into a B&B. As we prepare to open our doors in November, Hallerbos B&B has really come full circle. Have a look, it will give you goosebumps!
The 622-hectare Hallerbos Forest is one of the seven most breathtaking forests in the world. It is famous for its fairytale valleys of purple-blue wild hyacinth carpets in the spring. But each season offers nature’s beauty and all year round you can let yourself be enchanted by the special atmosphere of the Hallerbos Forest.
Our B&B is for people dreaming of escaping in the blink of an eye to refresh mind, body and spirit with mother nature, to connect with others and to have moments that take our breath away! Feel the same welcoming warmth and pampering you feel when you're on holidays and discover all the unique experiences Halle and the great outdoors have to offer.