European Council for the Village and Small Town

ECOVAST UK Discussion

Events and activities

 27 - 31 March 2015 Czech Republic - West Bohemia

ECOVAST will hold the Biennial General Assembly in 2015 in the Czech Republic on Saturday 28 March. 


This will be preceded by an Extraordinary General Meeting to approve changes to the statutes. 

Formal notice to members was given on 5 January 2015 and a registration form may be downloaded from the ECOVAST website <REGISTRATION FORM.docx>where details of the agenda and accompanying programme of events may also be downloaded <ECOVAST EVENT FRANTISKOVY LAZNE Programme.docx>. 


Before the meetings of ECOVAST Members on 28 March a Conference on European Small Towns will mark the culmination of the ASSET Project, “Action to Strengthen Small European Towns”. There will be speakers from the University of West Bohemia on the Competitiveness of Small Towns in the Czech Republic. The work of the Association of Local Government of the Czech Republic will be presented. Sunday 29 March will be a full day tour of small towns in both the Czech Republic and Germany.


Monday 30 March is proposed for a tour of the “Green Belt” area of the former Iron Curtain followed by an afternoon workshop.


27 March is arrival day and 31 March departure.


7-9 April, 2015:  Europa Nostra UK Annual Meeting in Cambridge   


The meeting, exploring the ‘Contribution of the Arts to the Understanding of the Significance of Place’, promises to be of exceptional interest. There will be private visits to colleges and the Fitzwilliam Museum. On the morning of 9 April there will be a visit to Ely Cathedral and monastic buildings. On 7 April Lord Renfrew will deliver the Duncan-Sandys Lecture. The conference on 9 April will hear from  Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Tihana Fabijanić, Vice-President of ECOVAST (the European Council for the Village and Small Town) and Angus Fowler (ECOVAST Germany, ECOVAST Vice-President and former Chairman of the Förderkreis Alte Kirchen) will be speaking.  


ECOVAST UK is partnering these events and we hope to see many members of ECOVAST in Cambridge.


Europa Nostra UK 

YORK, UK CONFERENCE  27-30 April, 2014

Sunday 27 April Reception at The Mansion House and visit to Fairfax House. 

Monday 28 April morning visits and lunch, followed by Annual General Meeting at 3pm and Duncan Sandys Memorial Lecture at 4.30pm. Dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall.

Tuesday 29 April. Conference 9.15 - 5pm 

Wednesday 30 April  Tour of East Yorkshire 9am - 6pm

Details from: Dr Peter Collins, St Edmund Hall, Oxford, OX1 4AR


Europa Nostra


VIENNA, Austria 2 – 6 MAY 2014

After its emblematic congress in Athens last year, which marked the 50th Anniversary of Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage organisation is preparing its next year’s congress in Vienna. The Awards Ceremony at the Burgtheater, the opera performance by the world-renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra Plácido Domingo at the Wiener Staatsoper, and the full-day excursion to the World Heritage valley of Wachau are the highlights of the programme. H.E. the President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer, has granted his patronage to the congress. 


 May 16 - 18 13th Rural Parliament in Sweden

Sandviken, Gävleborg, Sweden 

200 kilometres north of Stockholm.

The Rural Parliament starts at noon on Friday the 16th, with an opening ceremony and presentations from All Sweden shall live and our European associates. The program also includes cultural elements from the Gävleborg region and lots more. The County Governor of Gävleborg, Barbro Holmberg, will also appear as opening speaker at the Rural Parliament 2014. She has previously been the Director-General of the Swedish Migration Board.

During the Saturday, both Swedish and international guests of the Rural Parliament will participate in a working process to put forward a proposal for a Rural Political Programme. 


Lena Husén International contacts

+46 70 525 74 95

registration at: / anmalan


6 - 8 November 2014. Scotland’s first Rural Parliament

Inaugural meeting to be held in Oban.

The very first Scottish Rural Parliament will be held in Oban later this year, it has been confirmed.The three day event, which will take place over November 6-8, 2014, will bring together 400 people from rural communities, decision makers and organisations from across Scotland.

Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:“Rural Parliaments work well in other European countries, giving our rural communities and businesses a stronger voice in policy making and an opportunity to celebrate all that is good about living and working in rural areas. I would urge everyone across rural Scotland to take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in shaping the content, remit, agenda and themes of our nation’s very first Rural Parliament and make it a success.”


Scottish Rural Action


29 October - 1 November 2014. Sustaining Rural Religious Heritage - International Conference in Halle, Germany. 

The European Network for historic places of worship. 


Future for Religious Heritage

c/o European Landowners' Organization, 67 Rue de Treves Brussels 1040




General Assembly 2013




See the album in the photo gallery



The ECOVAST International Annual Assembly 2013 was held in the village of Kozard, in Nograd County, Hungary, at the end of September. The event was attended by representatives from the Hungarian Section, Germany Section, Russian Section and the UK Section.  We had several last minute cancellations because of illness and our Austrian and Croatian colleagues were unable to attend.   

The programme, arranged for us by Gabor Ragnai and Dr Pal Hajas was good indeed.  We were housed in small properties in the village which had been converted through the Leader programme into self-catering accommodation.  They were furnished with traditional materials and decorations.  The village ‘Vadvirag’ restaurant catered for most of our needs and supplied local meat and vegetables (some of it from Pal’s own farm) and local drinks – juices and the Hungarian national ‘palinka’ drink (a powerful and flavoursome fruit brandy) made from local fruits such as quinces, pears and plums.  

We were welcomed by our host – Ms Marta Hajas, the Mayor of Kozard – and we visited various venues in the village which had seen many restorations of traditional buildings and which was now endowed with several buildings which could be used by the whole community – including a new small church above the village hall.  The village was adorned with many local carvings.  We also visited the palinka still in the adjacent village of Ecseg. 

We were also taken to the nearest small town of Paszto (population of around 10,000) where we met the Deputy Mayor and the Head of Economic Development – before visiting the original core of the historic town.  

We were then taken to the nearby World Heritage Village of Holloko where we also met the Mayor and discussed the plans to revive the village – the first village in Europe to be recognised by UNESCO and acknowledged as one of the most beautiful traditional villages in Europe. 

The main event of the visit was a conference which had two main themes – the preservation of historic buildings and small towns.  The discussion centred on the need to preserve the most beautiful traditional buildings, yet enable them to continue as ‘living’ settlements.  

The debate focused on Holloko which we had seen the day before and had been the subject of a ‘management plan’ by Deszo Kovacs of the Hungarian section – though the ideas we had heard at the village were not in line with the plan – demonstrating the real dilemma faced by local people, politicians and specialists.  

Another historic village nearby and how they were tackling the problem of preservation was outlined by the Chief Architect of Nograd county – Tamas Karaba.

Another small town – Mezohegyes – in Bekes county in the southern Great Hungarian Plain also has a unique history as it was founded in 1784 as the Hungarian Royal Apostolic Stud by Emperor Joseph II and it still has many examples of unique architecture related to the world of horse-keeping.  

Today it is still the home of the Hungarian stud and famous for its breeds of horses.  The town was described by the Mayor, Dr Faltin Erzsebet, who had travelled a long way from Mezohegyes to attend the ECOVAST conference, and promote her town.  She is working towards the possibility of UNESCO recognising the uniqueness of the town.

At the end of the conference I described the work that ECOVAST has undertaken in the last few years on small towns.  I outlined the formal Position Paper which had just been completed to set out the importance of small towns and which was to be sent out to influence policy makers in DG Regio; DG Agri of the European Commission and the Council of Europe.  (The paper was sent out in October 2013.)  It can be downloaded from:

All the national sections of ECOVAST will be encouraged to use the documents to promote small towns in their own countries.  The Hungarian section said that they would also make sure that all 19 counties in Hungary would get a copy of this report.  

The final day of the event was the ECOVAST General Assembly meeting.

Valerie Carter



SEP 26 2013


The European organization for rural matters ECOVAST (European Council for the Village and Small Town) will hold its General Assembly and annual conference this year 26 – 29 September 2013 in the village of Kozard in north- western Hungary near the Slovakian border. Special themes of the excursion on 27th and the conference on 28th September will be rural development and agriculture, small towns and World Heritage Villages. The typical small town Paszto and the World Heritage Village Hollokö nearby will be visited and rural development and rural tourism seen in Kozard itself.

Guests are welcome at the ECOVAST events. Besides the cost for accommodation there will be a conference fee of 50 Euros (30 Euros for students) and a modest cost for meals and refreshments.

Registrations should be sent to Pal Hajas, Kulturulet 095, H 3053 Kozard, Fax: +36-32-481076, e-mail: Tel.. +36- 30-210 4308 bzw. +36-30-0912 using all e-mail addresses to make sure that the form reaches its destination.





ECOVAST’s International Annual Meeting was held in the German town of Witzenhausen (region Werra-Meisner) of 5 to 7 October 2012.

The result of the Elections of the Officers and Committee were:
President Mrs Valerie CARTER (UK)
Vice Presidents:
Mrs Tihana STEPINAC FABIJANIC (Croatia)  
Dr Arthur SPIEGLER (Austria)
Mr Angus FOWLER (Germany)
Mr Philip Turner (UK)
Treasurer Mrs Andrea WEIGERT (Germany)

New member of the Committee: Enrico Capo (Italy)
Secretary General. Post vacant. Valerie Carter is now the contact to be shown on the ECOVAST website.

The Assembly was complemented by accompanying events, with several workshops and an excursion to the countryside in order to inform Witzenhausen space - positive and negative processes and best practices based on the ECOVAST concept of Heritage Trails.
Seminar on small historic towns (See also the contribution by Enrico Capo, below)
Arthur Spiegler organised a workshop on historic small towns on October 4th with the help of the German section.  This aimed to gain an overview of the status quo of our ideas and the facts about small towns and to speak about the option to have an international small town conference in Germany in 2013.  This should hopefully be achieved with the help of the European Commission that seems to begin taking small towns seriously as decisive part of the European heritage and identity.
There was free discussion amongst members of ECOVAST about how to most effectively present the problems of small towns in the EU at the upcoming conference in Metz, Sustainable Urban-Rural Partnership (Valerie Carter). The goal is to encourage the EU to formulate a tighter policy on small towns, especially small historic cities - the small towns as a development resource, especially as the European Commission proposes integrating  activities and funding for urban and rural areas - DG Regio and DG Agri acting together through Community Led Local Development.
Meeting of the International Committee
The committee agreed the agenda for the Annual Meeting, accepted the minutes of last meeting in Vienna (October 2011), and the meeting of the International Committee of the Achberg, Germany (April 2012).

6th October
Seeing cultural and economic characteristics of the region Werra-Meisner (Ralf Bokermann)
German central mountainous area of 1024 km2 and 104,000 inhabitants
Presentation of the project "The region creates the future" - Association for Regional Development

A trip through the region Werra-Meisner
First case study was GARTENBACH - the village where a regional chain store , TEGUT,in cooperation with local authorities and organizations of persons with disabilities, established a small country store as part of a regional development program "Revival of a Village Store - store + cafe + lounge, collecting prescriptions for drugs and distribution at home, sales of regional products (fruits and vegetables) and some local products (soaps). The program includes the employment of people with disabilities.

Second case study BAD SOODEN - a small historic town with timber framed buildings.
Third case study KLEINWACH a village with a minimum number of jobs (restaurant, accommodation for cyclists and canoeists)

The fourth visit was to a factory for the manufacture of mobile chicken coops - innovative ideas.
Then a tasting experience at RINGGAU - a dairy producing 14 kinds of cheese, marketed locally, regionally, internationally, purchasing environmentally certified milk from nearby farms to produce 80 kg of cheese.

BURG LUDVIGSTEIN Castle - German Youth Center- was seen at the end of the afternoon. Recently opened in the grounds is Germany's largest house of straw bales, 1,000 m2.  Timber framing, lime plaster and other biomaterials were used in the construction, All was made possible by grants and  41,000 volunteer hours.
Later there was a tasting of German wines.

Parallel working groups for Architecture and Landscape 7th October

There is action to bringing together local people and other organizations to prevent demolition of parts of the historic wall around Witzenhausen itself!

The Austrian section together with the Faculty of Agriculture is planning a project "Green Ring" - Arthur Spiegler will send the text to ECOVAST Sections so that they can express interest in participating.

In Leipzig on 22 November Angus Fowler, for ECOVAST and Europa Nostra, is moderating a session on “Wooden Churches”
                                                                                contributed by Tihana Stepinac Fabijanić

1. The region
Witzenhausen in the Werra Region. The region lies in central Germany between the cities of Kassel (30 km) and Goettingen (25 km). Witzenhausen is well connected to highways and the railway.
The region lies in the Medium German Mountain Area and is subdivided in small geographic units . The area belongs to the planning region of Northern Hessen, upper centre is the city of Kassel. As a cultural space the area is characterised above all by historical small towns. Most city centres here show a continuity of historical timber-framed buildings. The preservation of this stock of historic buildings is a job for which there are up to now no standard concepts.
After the social and economic structure the area is  typically rural with all the usual problems.

2. Main focus of the intended programme
The Werraland is a cultural space, a tourist area as well as a region of forced rural development. Therefore one could give the Biennial Assembly many main focuses. It has been decided to concentrate on rural development. The priority will be set on innovative projects. Architecture and scenery are considered with single projects illustrated. Anyone who would like to get to know the cultural space, should remain several days longer in the region. If wished, a programme can be offered for this.

3. Planned organisation of the conference
A seminar hotel is booked for the duration of the conference; it lies in approx. 0.7 km from the city centre. Accommodation and meals are planned here and in a nearby restaurant. Thus the time can all be used for the conference and events. The prices are moderate.
On account of the tourist demand in the region the registrations should be given for the conference by the 15th of September. The programme and other documents for the registration will be sent to the Secretary General  at the beginning of August.
   Ralf Bokermann




 On Saturday 12 May 2012 we met in Finstock, Oxfordshir


The Annual Assembly for 2011 took place in Vienna on 23 October, and was attended by members from seven countries.  As well as routine business, the meeting devoted some time to debate about the future directions which ECOVAST might take, given shortage of funds, and problems of communication with some Sections.

Although in principle the accounts of 2010 were accepted, the Auditors requested that the former Treasurer provide additional information before the accounts could be finally signed off. As this was not a Biennial Assembly, no elections took place to the International Committee, but there is one change to report in the Auditors, with Angus Fowler taking over from Irmelin Küttner, who is now Chairman of the German Section.  Rudiger Maul remains as the other Auditor.

This year ECOVAST did not have an independent conference, but members were able to attend the Water Supply Symposium held in the days prior to the Assembly. Representatives from the UK and Russia took advantage of this.  However, an excursion was organised by Dr Arthur Spiegler on Saturday 22 October. 

The International Committee hopes to meet this Spring, 2012, in Germany. Our Biennial Assembly will be in the Autumn of 2012, but the location is not yet finalized, although this too may be in Germany.

                                                              Pam Moore

 Vienna Symposium and Excursions

At the time of the General Assembly in October 2011, ECOVAST members enjoyed a tour of the seven terraces of Vienna (created through the erosion of the historic river Danube). Earlier there had been the opportunity to attend the study tour and Symposium on Historic Water Supplies, organised by Gilbert Wiplinger, of the Frontinus Society and Austrian Archaeological Institute in conjunction with ECOVAST Austria.

Sextus Julius Frontinus (ca. 40–103 AD), Roman aristocrat, was author of technical treatises, especially one dealing with the aqueducts of Rome. The two day symposium ranged over the experience of international academics and volunteers on historic and present day water supply systems.

Wiplinger’s own work is on Roman water supply systems and the aqueduct system of Ephesus, in Turkey, so it was fitting that the symposium began with an evening launch in the magnificent ambience of the Ephesus Museum in Vienna’s Hofburg.

On the following day there was a coach tour Vienna’ water supply system within the city and tracing the southern of the two Mountain Spring Lines (with open channels, pumping stations and aqueducts) to the source of the drinking water in the Lower Austrian Styrian Alps. A highlight of the day was climbing the interior spiral ramp of the soaring 67 metre water tower built in 1899 at Wienerberg in the south of the city.

“The water reaches Vienna without pumps through galleries (some of which were cut through sheer rock) by exploiting the natural drop resulting from the difference in altitude. The gravitational energy is even made use of along the course of the pipeline to generate electricity.”

On the Saturday before the GA, Arthur Spiegler was the leader of a minibus tour into the six landscapes surrounding Vienna. We were particularly pleased that Dr Enrico Capo of Rome could be with us.  


Enrico Capo is on the right of the picture

 Beginning at river level in the Donau National Park, close to the Slovakian border, we discovered a surviving boat mill (Schiffmühle) near the Castle and small town of Orth where the national park has its headquarters.

Climbing through the terraces of Vienna´s townscape to the Vienna Woods, we reached a traditional rustic restaurant and, after lunch, we looked down on the Danube from the Leopoldsberg (425 m, 1,394 ft), the most north eastern extent of the Alps. St Leopold’s church, from 1679, and the former restaurant is now closed to visitors and is deteriorating, despite a promise from the architect who took the lease to keep it open and in good repair.     

                                        Phil Turner



ECOVAST Conference in the Isle of Wight a success

 The slide presentations can be seen at:



ECOVAST – the European Council for the Village and Small Town – has, for
the first time in its 26 year history held its Annual Assembly events in the UK,
and the location chosen was the Isle of Wight.

ECOVAST, an International Non Governmental Organisation (INGO), has
members in fifteen European countries, right across the continent.

The Isle of Wight events took place over a three-day period. An excursion on
Friday 15 October, took a group right across the island with morning calls at
Newport Farmers’ Market, and Briddlesford Lodge Farm, where the Isle of
Wight AONB Officer, Fiona Hanna, explained the AONB designation, and two
of the farm’s owners Mrs Judy Griffin and Mrs Chris Griffin, answered
questions on its activities.

Lunch was taken at The Sun Inn, Calbourne, enabling participants from a
number of countries to sample a typical English roast dinner. A walk to Winkle
Street followed, and then a visit to Calbourne Watermill, where the group had
the opportunity to see the stoneground flour being produced.

The last part of the excursion comprised a tour of West Wight, travelling
across to Freshwater Bay, and then back through Brook, Mottistone and
Brighstone, before the final stop at Chale, where Parish Council Chairman,
Malcolm Groves, and other local people described their work to prepare a
Village Design Statement for the settlement and the parish plan.

On the following day, more than forty people attended an international
conference at Ventnor Botanic Gardens, on the topic “Challenges of Effective
Rural Development and Heritage”. Proceedings began with a keynote speech
by the Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, Dr Stuart
Burgess, and this was followed by a presentation on “LEADER Projects on
the IOW” by Graham Biss, Chief Executive, IOW Natural Enterprise, and
David Langford, Regional Director of the Country Landowners and Business
Association. They presented ECOVAST with two fine engraved wooden
plaques, produced through the LEADER funded Wood Works Wight project,
and engraved by Redhill Farm Design.

Phil Turner, Past President of ECOVAST, who chaired the morning session,
remarked afterwards that IOW LEADER was clearly “punching well above its
weight” and was a successful model for elsewhere in the UK and in Europe.

During the second part of the morning, Valerie Carter, former Rural Director of
SEEDA talked about the agency’s work on the island, and the morning
session concluded with an international case study on Croatia and the
particular problems faced by islands, delivered Tihana Stepinac Fabijanic, the
President of ECOVAST. After lunch, Malcolm Groves presented The Chale
Project, which is part of the Sustainability for the Isle of Wight initiative, and
then Professor Michael Dower, former Director of the Countryside

Commission, addressed the issues facing the European Union in formulating
policy for the period after 2013. policy for the period after 2013.

The last part of the conference was devoted to workshops on “Delivering
Integration in Rural Development Programmes” led by Rebecca Frost,
Programme Manager, UK National Rural Network and RDPE Network,
Commission for Rural Communities, “Specific problems faced by islands” with
Tihana Stepinac Fabijanic the President of ECOVAST facilitating, and
“Heritage and the impact of CAP Reform” under the leadership of John Sell,
the Executive Vice-President of Europa Nostra.

ECOVAST’s final day of events, on 17 October, was devoted to internal
working groups and a business meeting, again held at the Ventnor Botanic
Garden, an idyllic setting which was very popular with delegates. During their
time on the island, many of the visitors managed to see other areas – indeed
one lady from Germany stayed for an extra week to savour all that the Isle of
Wight has to offer. For many it was their first time on the island, but all were
enthusiastic about its charms, and will undoubtedly spread word of its

Pam Moore, Secretary General ECOVAST

Photograph - the speakers at the conference, from left to right:
Tihana Stepinac Fabijanic the President of ECOVAST
Graham  Biss  Chief Executive, IOW Natural Enterprise
Valerie Carter, former Rural Director of SEEDA and Chairman of ECOVAST UK
Professor  Michael Dower, Past  President ECOVAST
David Langford, Regional Director of the Country Landowners and Business Association
Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, Dr Stuart Burgess
Malcolm Groves, Chairman of Chale Parish Council.