Monika and Hans Wilhelm von Bronsart, owners of Wasserschloss Hülsede, a moated castle, have for the last six years been cultivating about 450 hectares of arable land jointly with two adjoining manor houses. In addition, they operate a biogas plant that was built in a former NATO bunker. Revenues flow into the upkeep of historical buildings from the time of the Weser Renaissance. On many a night of the full moon, ghosts are said to wander the corridors of the Wasserschloss (moated castle). Then, or so the story goes, the ghost of Jobst von Mengersens haunts the ancient walls. In actual fact, the original owner of the castle did go to meet his maker 400 years ago. However, the forebear of Monika von Bronsart evidently finds no rest. However, perhaps the restless chatelaine only awakes in a benevolent mood to admire what his successors are doing today: in just 30 years, Monika and Hans Wilhelm von Bronsart have restored their listed moated castle in the style of the Weser Renaissance, true to the original, sparing no expense and investing a lot of love in the process.The interior decoration acknowledges and reflects the time between the Reformation and the 18th century.
In the small Rittersaal (Great Hall), the buffet is often laid out.
In the small Rittersaal (Great Hall), the buffet is often laid out.
The Grey Vaulted Hall.
A genuine masterpiece and a very rare item indeed: a fireplace that is 400 years old. The owner enjoys lighting a fire there for festive events.
Hans Wilhelm von Bronsart shows us his castle library.
The aristocratic von Mengersen family acquired this manor house property back in 1585. Monika von Bronsart, a von Mengersen by birth, who grew up here and went to school here, inherited the castle back in 1970 together with the farm business from her father. "Thiscenturies-old property is not just a thing of beauty, it is also a very great commitment", explained Hans Wilhelm von Bronsart. He and his wife have set themselves the goal of restoring the castle to the condition it was in when first built some 500 years ago. The castle owner describes in just a few impressive words what it means to restore a listed moated castle and its land from the ground up: to strip out the core of the building, to tear out walls where they should not have been built, to restore the walls in the great halls to original condition, to rebuild the 400 year old fireplace and chimney, and to restore the roof with large slabs of sandstone. Mind you, there were some unpleasant surprises in store. "Suddenly, a heavy sandstone slab slipped off the roof", recalled von Bronsart, still relieved to this day that no-one got injured. The red Weser sandstone slabs were secured to the roof of the castle with forged nails. "People say that these nails can last for up to 150 years before they rust through. Manifestly, those 150 years had elapses", said the tanned, very committed entrepreneur with a disarming grin. It proved possible to reuse two thirds of the old slabs. However, this time the nails are made of stainless steel. So this time they will last for 400 years", he assured us jokingly. What has been created is a true work of art in the centre of Hülsede, a Lower Saxony village in the Sünte-Deister valley rising above the brick and half-timbered houses, the twisting narrow streets and the spruced up farm buildings. From the street called 'Über der Beeke' – which roughly translates as 'Over the Village Stream' – a broad drive leads into the extensive green grounds of the castle courtyard through old trees and carefully manicured greenery. The entire ensemble with itsbaroque garden is more reminiscent of art, large-scale events and fine dining than of a productive farm business. However, that all fits together in an indivisible unit.
"It was clear to us that we would not be able to keep this historical and listed building solely on the revenues derived from our little farm", explained von Bronsart. While saying this, he gazed across the generously proportioned courtyard at the four barn buildings extending over a combined surface area of 1480 m2. Their impressive tiled roofs gleam red in the sun. The Bronsarts also restored these buildings. That was also rendered possible because the former German Army officer founded a GbR with the owners of two neighbouring manor houses. On a joint basis, they do more than cultivate 450 hectares of arable land with wheat, root vegetables, rapeseed and corn. The Hülseder Rittergutsverwaltung or property management business run by the von Bronsart family acquired back in 1995 a 20 hectare former NATO site from the German government's property administration office. This was on the Süntelrand escarpment and had 23 bunkers and three fuel buildings. The farm owners turned this into an important new facet in their business In 2006 the GbR installed a biogas plant in one of the bunkers, and it supplies 550 kWh of power. Other bunkers serve as storage facilities for grain crops or for fertilisers and they also house the drying plant for digestate from the biogas plant. And now there is enough room there for 3200 m2 of photovoltaic modules. In just five minutes in a car, you can drive from the castle high up to the Süntelrand escarpment. "From up here, when the weather's fine, you can look right across to the Steinhuder Meer (a lake)", stated Heinrich Gröling, who after working for 30 years for the property management business, the Rittergutsverwaltung, and the GbR, now just looks after the biogas plant on a half-day employment basis. He is one of three employees. Bastian Schulz and Björn Kehen, both graduates of an agriculture college, are primarily responsible for ensuring that, every year, a good harvest is gathered in from the fields. However, essentially every employee here can tackle any of the work that needs to be done. For that reason, the shareholders now involve them in all of the decisions they make. For example, when they are considering the purchase of new tractors. "Just a short while ago, we switched lock stock and barrel from another brand to Fendt", explained Gröling and pointed to the three green tractors from Marktoberdorf: a 927 Vario, a 828 Vario and a 722 Vario. As well as great ride comfort and great resale values, it is above all the work of the AGCO/Fendt sales partner, Agravis Technik in Göxe, that guided the GbR towards this decision. For the farm owners, purchasing everything from a single source is not the only consideration. The 'A and O' package is a trustworthy and reliable service, especially when it is delivered by Agravis through the sales person responsible, Dennis Stahlhut. That was a reason why von Bronsart has already ordered a Fendt combine harvester for his 2013 harvest.
This early in the year, it is still quiet in the castle courtyard. Just a couple of birds are twittering at this time. But things won't stay like this. As soon as it gets warmer, a great many guests will be cavorting in the historic great halls, the castle kitchen and the vaulted cellars of the castle, in the park and on the farm. Every year, Monika von Bronsart and her daughter Countess Alexandra Finck von Finckenstein arrange many weddings, corporate celebrations, family festivals, seminars and receptions. " Here, groups of 20 to 1200 guests can celebrate", she stated. At the same time, the popularity of the events is in its way a 'thank you' and a reward for the time and money invested in the restoration work. And perhaps, now that the walls have been restored to their original condition, the castle ghost of Jobst von Mengersen can finally come to rest.