AuenBlicke: A Project for the Urdenbacher Kämpe

The EU-supported project "AuenBlicke" was set up to enhance the Urdenbacher Kämpe animal and plant habitat and increase opportunities for people to access and experience nature. The project was directed by the Haus Bürgel Eco Centre and financed by European Union Objective 2 Funds and the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, each contributing 50 percent. Supporting partners were the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung, a state foundation supporting conservation, local history, and culture projects, which owns Haus Bürgel and substantial parts of the nature reserve, as well as the District of Mettmann, the City of Düsseldorf, the Town of Monheim, and the Interessengemeinschaft Haus Bürgel Urdenbacher Kämpe e. V., a local volunteer group. The project was successfully carried out in the planned timeframe from September 2012 to June 2015.
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The first construction measures necessary to enhance the habitat were carried out in 2013. A flood channel was made deeper and several ponds were dug. This benefits amphibians and freshwater birds such as grey herons. The enhanced habitat may also result in white storks returning to their traditional nesting grounds here.
Watering troughs for grazing animals were set up in a number of meadow orchards to encourage the use of these meadows as pasture. This helps preserve the habitat and benefits the Little owls that live there, since it is easier for them to spot beetles, grubs, and worms in short, animal-bitten grass. The subproject "Sowing local seeds" is another visible success. Visitors can now enjoy the sight of meadows covered in flowers, which moreover attract insects and birds. Sowing local seeds increased the biodiversity of previously species-poor pastureland, on which herbs were unable to establish because the turf was too dense. Small areas of turf were tilled and sown with seeds from our region to encourage the re-establishment of indigenous meadow plants.
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The year 2014 was largely devoted to information and communication. Based on interviews and surveys, the network of trails in the nature reserve received new signage. Benches and resting places were set up inviting walkers to take a break and sit and enjoy the landscape. In this context an accessible route entitled "Inclusive trail" was developed. A detailed description of this trail is available online at www.AuenBlicke.de, allowing people with disabilities to find out beforehand whether the trail is suitable for their needs. The remaining unsurfaced track in the area of Hellerhof will be developed soon. New panels and dial-in audiocommentaries provide information and tell the stories of this landscape. Visitors can also use their mobile phones to access information on Little owls, grey herons, and kingfishers, or learn why in the Urdenbacher Kämpe the Rhine is a free-running river without dikes. Flood markers at the information panels show how high the water was during historic floods, for instance in 1995. A map of the nature trail network giving additional information about special features will be available for free at the Haus Bürgel Eco Centre and in local pubs and restaurants from June 2015.
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The project has transformed Haus Bürgel into a popular destination for school groups. In the model orchard, information about old cultivars is presented in a learning-oriented way. A group of seats provides an open-air classroom where children can discuss their discoveries after going on "pond safari" along the footbridge across the new pond.
Under the title "Inspired by nature", a nature interpretation trail was established along the Old Rhine, one of the ecological highlights of the nature reserve. This subproject included a four-day facilitated workshop in which around thirty local people developed ideas for the area. They suggested naming the bridges and benches as well as setting up noticeboards where visitors can note down their observations, for example "April 1, kingfisher spotted near Kalte Bank".

The training of volunteers as guides for themed walks was a great success. The certified guides completed seventy hours of intensive training which included didactic skills and conservation law as well as hands-on learning about the wetlands and biodiversity. A wide array of group events is now available on our website, including children's birthday parties.
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