New Friends: The Chestnut Neighbours

In each edition of De Buitenplaats, we like to introduce a new friend of Wester-Amstel. This time around, we could easily call it ‘meet our neighbours’.


We would like to introduce you to: Thomas Beekman and Eva Beekman-Sillen. The couple lives a stone's throw away from Wester-Amstel and it was an absolute pleasure to meet them. On a dry (!) sunny spring evening, we talked about what drew them to the Amstelland, what it’s like living next to a country estate like Wester-Amstel, and of course why they chose to sponsor one of our horse chestnut trees.


Read on and get to know our fantastic neighbours!

Photo Marit van den Berg Photography: Our neighbours with - yes - three children!

Taylor: Thank you so much for meeting with me. We're excited to introduce you both to the Friends of Wester-Amstel. If you can, please introduce yourselves to everybody!


Eva: Shall I start?


Thomas: Yes, ladies first.


Eva: Well, my name is Eva. I'm a mom of three - a six, five, and one-year-old - which is very lovely. One girl and two boys. The rest of my day is occupied with working as a consultant. I'm a partner at one of the big consulting firms in Amsterdam. I didn't grow up in this area of the country. I grew up in Limburg and then I moved to Rotterdam and then Amsterdam… It’s been almost 20 years now. We moved here six years ago. So I work, I am a mother, I like to cook... I also like to dance!


[A conversation about Carnival ensues, with Thomas admitting that he loves it now too.]


Taylor: And Thomas, how about you?


Thomas: Well, I also have three kids... [laughs] With the love of my life. I'm from Twente. I've lived in Geneva and Munich, and then via Leiden I moved to Amsterdam. But compared to Twente, where you have a lot of woods and fields, I really felt the need to go back to nature... And then we found this place six years ago.


From the age of 20, I've been an entrepreneur. I have a company that develops apps. It's an HR tech company and I've been doing that for 12 years. I like to do sports a lot. I play tennis at the other old house down the road - Oostermeer. So I love sports, I play hockey. I love to ski. Unfortunately, this year that wasn't possible and I missed it a lot. But yeah, I love to hang out with my family and with my friends.

Taylor: Do you like living in Amstelland? Is nature one of the things that drew you here?


Eva: I think it's a combination of being outside and having some space and indeed, having green around you. But it's also about being very close to the city still and being able to cycle there - having all the museums and a very nice city environment nearby. But here, you are really outside. You're not in the busy streets and things like that. We had a lot of fun for many years, but especially when the kids came, I think, we felt the need to go a bit further away.


Thomas: I love Amstelland also because of the Rondehoep. We cycle there a lot with the kids. Also the history of Wester-Amstel, which is here, and of Oostermeer. Along the dijk there is so much history. We love the place. We've got a lot of books about the Amstel and surrounding area.


Eva: It's also about the water, I think... All the things you can do with a boat or nowadays with the SUP. We go swimming with the kids in the summer. But also here in the canals or the little areas, you can go ice skating when it's frozen.


Thomas: Last winter was beautiful!


Taylor: Did you go skating?


Eva: Yeah, it was fantastic!


Thomas: Yeah, we just walked through the fields and over the ditches.


Eva: You really have the best of both worlds, right? You know, it doesn't feel like you're too far out and for me that was quite important.


Thomas: And with the Amstelland, I really hope that they can keep it as green as it is. Because for a lot of people from Amsterdam, it's a really close location for a green area to visit. I really appreciate that Wester-Amstel does so much to stay open to the public. It is a beautiful location that has not fallen into the hands of project developers and the like.


Eva: I think it's nice and you also have the responsibility, right? If you can live here then you should take good care of the surroundings. I think that's what also ties the neighbourhood together, right? It has a bit of a... village feeling. It has a sense of community.


Taylor: When was the first time you visited Wester-Amstel? Do you remember anything from that visit? Was there a reason you decided, 'Oh we're going to stop in and see what it's like.'


Eva: Yeah, I remember. When we just moved here, I think there were expositions that we started to visit. And Thomas' mother, when she was babysitting our oldest daughter, she would take her out for walks.


Thomas: She always went to Wester-Amstel.


Eva: I think that is one of my first memories of Wester-Amstel.


Thomas: Also when we first moved here, I think I remember at one point, we visited Wester-Amstel and we were like, 'Wow! This is so close to our house.' We didn't realise that when we bought the house. It was really an extreme bonus that there was such a nice place with so much history so nearby. We go walking there pretty often. We take the kids to look at the swans and look at the old tea house. It's a beautiful place.


Taylor: That's so nice to hear!


Thomas: We actually had a tour a couple of months ago with the Steward. We really loved his enthusiasm and his stories.


Eva: Not only that, but it also has a lot of nice things for kids. When you look at it, you're like, 'No, this is not really like... a playground, right?' But actually you can really go around with them to show them flowers, the tea house, and the insect hotel. And you have these little herb gardens where you can let them smell stuff. There's always the swans at the back and even that little bench. They love it!


Thomas: I'm also very interested in history, I read a lot of history books.


Eva: Yeah, I'm more into nature, you're more into history.


Thomas: And when I'm there, I like to imagine how it was 150 years ago, what happened in the Second World War, things like that. It's a historic place and you feel it when you're there. It feeds my imagination.


Taylor: If you like history, then you should download our audio tour, it's in English and Dutch. You can walk around and learn all the fun stories about Wester-Amstel and its history.


Thomas: Oh, nice. I would love to be a volunteer when our kids are a bit older, because now on the weekends it's already so packed with them. But I would really love to hear and learn more about Wester-Amstel.


Taylor: Have you had a chance to see the sheep at Wester-Amstel?


Eva: Now that you mentioned it, I think I did register it. They were not there in the winter, right?


Taylor: No, they moved them to somewhere warmer and with better shelter. But they're back now. They're excellent lawnmowers and very friendly! Okay, one of my last questions for you... I heard that you sponsored one of Wester-Amstel's horse chestnut trees (paardenkastanje). I would love to know what inspired you to do this.


Eva: Well, you can look at it.


Thomas: Yeah, it is that one over there. [points to a chestnut tree off in the distance at the south-west corner of Wester-Amstel] As you can see, you can look through the chestnut and the other trees... And then you see the field over there. When the yellow-brown cows are in , it really reminds me of Normandy.


Eva: Or old Dutch paintings. And for us, the chestnut tree is like a marker, a landmark. Worth nurturing. But it's also a gesture, as we really appreciate the care the Friends of Wester-Amstel take of the whole property and things like that.


Thomas: We sponsor the tree to help you with the keeping of the park. We love having this story to tell to our kids, we can say, 'Hey, we sponsor that tree.' Then we can go to the tree with the kids and tell them more about it. Plus, when they're older, this tree will have a place in their memories.


Taylor: Those are all really wonderful reasons. So that just about wraps up my questions. Is there anything else that I missed that you think would be interesting to add?


Thomas: I've got hundreds of questions, but I won't bother you with them. They're more questions about the history and how it's going at Wester-Amstel. I would say to the people, who aren't already fans of Wester-Amstel... come visit and enjoy the beauty! And become friends of Wester-Amstel, of course!

Photo Thomas Beekman: The adopted tree, on the corner

The chestnut tree that Thomas and Eva adopted grew from a seedling, a lost chestnut, that landed right on the corner of two ditches. For years, it managed to escape the clutches of the brushcutters and other plant-life executioners. Even though it was growing into a proud, healthy chestnut tree… In 2012, the steward wanted to stop this “oversized” accident in its tracks. Luckily another neighbour and friend of Wester-Amstel pleaded that the chestnut be left alone. And well, the rest is history!

By: Taylor Blades