Southern part of the lignite area/Ville recultivated area with the various subareas.

Completed recultivation

Forestry recultivation: approx. 2400ha

Agricultural recultivation: approx. 660ha


The southern part of the lignite area/Ville recultivated area is the oldest former mining site of the Rhenish lignite area. It comprises recultivated areas between Brühl and Erftstadt-Liblar. Geologically, the southern part of the lignite area is located in a zone that is elevated compared to the surroundings, the foothills or ‘Villerücken’, a ridge with a height of about 60m that, coming from Bonn, loses height to the north-west and ends south of Grevenbroich. The coal layers are very close to the surface here due to this special geological situation. That is why industrial mining once began here in the south.

Around 20 opencast mines had been developed in this region by the end of the 19th century and some of their names are known to this day. To the west of Brühl, these were the Roddergrube and the Bleibtreu pit, later forming part of the Gruhlwerk opencast mine. The Concordia, Liblar and Donatus pits were located east of the line from Kierdorf through Köttingen to Liblar. The Berggeist opencast mine was located in the far south near Birkhof. To the south-west of Brühl was the Brühl pit, the first mining union in the Rhenish lignite area, and the Vereinigte Ville pit was in the north, west below the Knappsacker Hügel.


Otto-Maigler-See in the Ville recultivated area.

As lignite mining and the restoration of the landscape in this region have been concluded since the 1970s, no active operational areas are found here anymore. The region was almost entirely recultivated for forestry. It is home to the oldest large-scale recultivated forests under ongoing forestry management in the Rhenish lignite area, including particularly successful examples of forest development on recultivated sites. Mighty beech and oaks with a diverse, differentiated ground vegetation layer hardly give cause to suspect that this is a former industrial site. More than 50 lakes were also incorporated in the landscape in the course of rehabilitation. They developed in the abandoned open pits of numerous individual opencast mines. This is due to layers of clay directly beneath the coal, so the groundwater rapidly rises again after the end of mining in the generally shallow pits. Accordingly the southern part of the lignite area is also known as the ‘forest and lake district’ today. In a region without natural lakes, this landscape feature is an enrichment in terms of natural scenery, local recreation and nature conservation. These bodies of water are very rich in species and of high ecological importance even beyond the region. Some bodies of water in the southern part of the lignite area have already been placed under protection because of their environmental value. Recreation and leisure play a role in addition to their ecological significance for the flora and fauna. Select bodies of water are destinations for anglers, bathers and other visitors. A good network of hiking trails and the many bodies of water attract recreational visitors from the Cologne metropolitan area in particular.

The area of the former Ville opencast mine remains highly industrialised to this day. It is home to the Hürth-Knapsack industrial area at the level of the original terrain, surrounded by former opencast mines. The neighbouring sedimentation pond A was originally used for the sedimentation of water with coal residues, and various landfills have been established in the abandoned open pit of the old Ville opencast mine. The fully recultivated Gotteshülfe and Theresia opencast mines are located in the north-east of the Ville mining area. The former is defined by the Otto-Maigler-See. This shallow lake that developed in the depleted Gotteshülfe pit in 1977 is among the largest lakes with a surface area of 50.5ha. Today the Otto-Maigler-See is one of the most popular swimming lakes in the Cologne region. It is much appreciated by water sports enthusiasts in addition to bathers. Interestingly it serves as an important place for aquatic birds to rest, notwithstanding its recreational use. To the south of that lies the Hürther Waldsee, which was completed in 1986 and planned exclusively as a nature conservation lake from the outset. It has been declared a protected area under the European Habitats Directive in the meantime since it is home to numerous rare animals and plants. Its value is determined by the reed beds as well as its very clean water that is low in nutrients. Extensive populations of stonewort are found here. The Bleibtreusee with nearly 75ha is the largest lake in the Ville lake district. It is intensively used for recreation by the populace. Numerous species of visiting birds nevertheless come to the lake.

Franziskussee with the two small islands in the southern part of the mining area (© photo: D.A. Gray).

The Villenhofer Maar is among the oldest bodies of water in the southern part of the lignite area. It is of special importance for dragonflies. More than 30 species have been documented on this lake, of which 10 are on the North Rhine-Westphalia Red List. The Eurasian hobby, an endangered species, is also found here as a visitor seeking nourishment. Breeding birds are rarely found on the Villenhofer Maar, however, because of intensive recreational use along the shore. The Franziskussee is a forest lake with two islands. They are used as a breeding area by a colony of common gulls comprising 44 pairs and known beyond the borders of the Rhenish lignite mining area. The lake is of high importance for breeding birds and passage migrants. The Donatussee with a surface area of 9.6ha and a depth of 15m is the deepest of the Ville lakes. It is now under landscape protection. Year-round protected spawning grounds have been established here where access and angling are prohibited. Close by are stands of trees called the Huttanusbestände with beech, now almost 80 years old, that have optimally developed here on the recultivated land. These old forests of considerable height and tree growth are home to numerous cavity-nesting species, such as the rare black woodpecker that needs mature forests to live.

Mature forests in the recultivated area of the southern part of the lignite area.

Special ecological features

More than 400 plant and fungus species and around 1300 animal species have been recorded in the southern part of the lignite area/Ville recultivated area to date, and a systematic study of some animal groups is still pending. Many of these species are endangered and on the Red List.

Some of the rare and endangered animal and plant species are:

Birds: Shoveller, partridge, quail, garganey, teal, marsh harrier, little grebe, great reed warbler, kingfisher, black tern, common sandpiper, Eurasian hobby, peregrine falcon, common snipe, common gull, turtle dove, little owl, grey-headed woodpecker, oriole

Mammals: Wildcat, whiskered bat, Bechstein’s bat, greater mouse-eared bat, noctule bat

Amphibians: Yellow bellied toad, green toad, agile frog, fire salamander

Reptiles: Sand lizard

Grasshoppers: Blue-winged grasshopper

Butterflies: White admiral, chequered skipper, marbled white

Dragonflies: Scarce blue-tailed damselfly, green-eyed hawker, scarce chaser, yellow-spotted emerald, lilypad whiteface, large white-faced darter

Orchids: 12 different native species, including southern marsh orchid and pyramidal orchid

See our lists of species for more.

Common gulls (© photo: D.A. Gray)
Pyramidal orchid (© photo: O. Tillmanns)
Lilypad whiteface (© photo: W. Wünsch)
Fire salamander
Lesser noctule
Kingfisher (© photo: F. Kirstein)
Agile frog (© photo: M. Schneider)

Further recultivation areas