Ipel Ekopizap.com SLOVAKIA


Ipel Eko

Ipel Eko Is an organisation based on the border between Slovakia and Hungary. They are involved in the management of the Ipel river basin, an internationally important RAMSAR designated wetland site. They see these nature areas for future local careers with jobs in the sensitive management of Riparian zones (riverside habitat). They are also responsible for the establishment of community forests in their region. As a private company hosting groups for cultural and eco-tourism they understand the need for profitability and growth. They operate a eco-centre and have a role in rescuing and developing vernacular buildings, using original & sustainable techniques for restoration, such as adobe brick. Works in sustainability and recycling, especially at village scale, i.e., composting of waste and village clean-up. Liaises with mayors and communities on development. Represents producers in various networks – i.e., honey producers. Follows LA21 principles for rural development.

We lead the ‘Eco-check’ WP, which records and checks the sustainability of all actions in the 9 countries – we will be helped by IVALSA (Italian researchers) in this. Our eco-checking extends to investigating recycling in a village context. We lead this because of carbon footprint measuring work in Slovakian villagers as part of ‘Green Village’ project development. We offer participatory training & work in the subject areas, ‘Rural Food’, ‘Sustainable building’ – where we focus on clay walls, lime and adobe brick, and ‘Sustainable ancestors’, where we link to Šahy museum and wine cellar structures (which share ground source heat ideas with the Icelanders). for ‘food’ we link to subsistence farming around our village & honey production (where we can locate experts for WP12). We will disseminate across a multi-actor network, attend partner meetings and create a ‘Learning by Doing’ group for mobility to twinned training actions in Cyprus, UK and Romania/ Bulgaria.



The Restoration of a holy well is enlisted as Action No.15 Action under the EVEHD Work Programme.

The holy well / sacred water site restoration was a common thread through each of the 6 multilateral, all partner cultural actions. It was also an ongoing process throughout the two years that EVEHD ran. In fact, the purpose was to ‘kick start’ a process that would just keep rolling with local volunteers. I believe we have succeeded in that regard in Germany, UK and Slovakia; in Romania, Iceland and Turkey I am more pessimistic but this needs qualifying a bit.  In Romania the Orthodox Christian church still has enormous power and influence and most if not all holy wells are under the control of monasteries and looked after by monks and nuns – we had some difficulty finding one to work with. In Iceland Gudmundur the Good, the then Bishop of the country, blessed many wells (the ‘Blessed Wells of Iceland’) and we realised that people do not take them too seriously these days (Father John Musther, the English Orthodox priest who led in the wells, would say it’s because they’re Protestants!); we think it would be very difficult to generate a group of volunteers to do this ongoing well maintenance. Again qualification is needed – we looked at 6 holy wells in the process of choosing one to work on – all were on private land and most were cared for by the owner.

Here is a potted description of what we achieved with our volunteers:

The forests of the Ipeľ River valley (south Slovakia) are full of natural springs with high quality drinking water, which is very important in an age when most of the surface waters and ground waters of the region have been polluted by the intensive agricultural production of the last 60-70 years. These natural springs are surrounded by beautiful forest environment, and provide refreshment for walkers, hunters, mushroom pickers, etc. Most of these locations are still known by the local people, but have been neglected for decades and therefore they are all overgrown and hardly accessible. That is why a group of local young people, who like to spend their free time in the nature, and organize trips to the forest decided to clean up a couple of these locations to make their surroundings more pleasant for visitors. In EVEHD, the group were joined by visiting volunteers from Romania (6), Germany (4), Turkey (2), UK (5) and Iceland (3). They chose 4 springs, 3 of which are located in the valley of the Olvár creek, an area starting 6 km from the provincial town of Šahy. The first spring, locally named as the King’s Well is the easiest to find, since it is located right next to the main forest road connecting Šahy with the medieval castle of Čabraď. It got its name in the Middle Ages, when the forest was the most popular hunting area of Hungarian kings. While hunting they stopped by the spring quite often to refresh themselves. The second one, the White Well has an even more interesting story that goes back to the period of the Ottoman invasion, which took place in the 15th-16th century. According to some archeological evidence, the population of the village of Tešmak escaped to a forest village called Somos before the Turks reached Tešmak. Although there has not been any detailed archeological survey, some historic documentation and a lot of pottery found on the site seem to prove that the forest village was located right beside the spring. According to a legend the third spring has a magical power, and up to the 1950s of the last century many people visited it from all over the country in a hope of recovering from the widest range of diseases, since its story tells about a shepherd, who went out to the spring every day with his sheep and little son who had a crippled leg. One day he followed the sheep to a spot quite far away from the spring, leaving his son at the spring, when a bear appeared and tried to attack the child. When the father heard a scream, he ran back and saw a beautiful shining lady above the spring and the little boy walking toward him. He fully recovered from his crippled leg and the Bear’s Well is still considered to be a holy place, where people can recover if they drink from its water. The fourth place, the Holy Well can be found in another forest south of Šahy, and just as the Bear’s Well is believed to have healing power. A little chapel of the Virgin Mary stands 100 meters away from the spring, where there are religious festivals and masses still organized on a regular basis. In EVEHD, we visited all 4 wells and heard the stories but our restoration work concentrated on the Kings Well and the White Well, the team cleaned vegetation and improved the footpath, then built a wooden roof over he wells to keep leaves from falling in. One of the local volunteers, Daniel Kovacs is a herpetologist (student) and shows the group some different amphibians and reptiles. The work was good but quite hard – weather very hot!  Lot of mosquitos, also, but successful.