Bike Touring Highlight (Segment)
The Himmelgeister Rheinbogen is a well-preserved example of the typical Lower Rhine cultural landscape. It is characterized by the alternation of meadows and fields, which are divided by poplar rows, hedges and field crops. The area designated as a nature reserve since 1996 is 214 hectares in size. In a survey of the plant population, which was carried out in 1997 by the Biological Station Haus Bürgel, there 336 different species were detected. 19 species are on the red list of endangered species.
Characteristic of the landscape are the old gnarled willows, which are on meadows and pastures and whose branches were formerly used for weaving baskets. The pollard willows are elements of the cultural landscape. The typical head shape is created by human use: white willows are "beheaded" at a height of about three meters. The pastures will be drifting again next year, young, pliable wicker will grow and be cut again. Over time, the typical head shape is formed. However, there are hardly any basket weavers in the meantime, so today the trees are cared for by the urban landscape nursing station Hexhof. Only by regular backstopping of the branches can a breakup of the ecologically valuable pastures be prevented.
The old pollard willows are also important for nature conservation. With their numerous tree hollows, they offer ideal nesting opportunities for cave breeders such as Little Owl and Redstart. In the Himmelgeister Rheinbogen, there are still about five breeding pairs of animals endangered nationwide.
The name and location of the area already indicate another formative element. The creative power of the Rhine has greatly influenced the natural history of the area. Even today, at high tide, large parts of the Himmelgeister Rheinbogen are flooded. Numerous, sometimes several meters deep, erosion gullies, the so-called high-tide basins, mainly pass through the terrain in the western section and are clearly visible on the fields and pastures. They fill up at high tide first and remain filled even with decaying water for a long time. In heavy floods, as in 1993 and 1995, high-sediment sediments such as sand and clay are deposited on the agricultural land.
Meadow landscapes are among the most valuable habitats in nature because of their abundance of plants and animals. The colorful flower meadows on the Itter dam show treasures from the realm of flora, which are otherwise hard to find: bluebells, meadow sage, field widow's flower, crown vetch, meadow button and Herbstzeitlose.
Another special feature in the Himmelgeister Rheinbogen is the Schlosspark Mickeln, which is also part of the nature reserve, but is also listed as a creation by the garden architect Maximilian Weye.
On a paved circular route, the Himmelgeister Rheinbogen can be ideally discovered on a walk. If you follow the Kölner Weg from the car park, you will find the former Itter stream for about 200 meters. This can also be tracked in the Itter district along the street "Am Broichgraben". Here a labeled stone pillar commemorates his "fate", formerly to fill the moats of the Benrather castle park and now there to be led into the Rhine.