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.
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.
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.
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.