On Friday 26 October the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR) had the amazing opportunity to visit a site in the south of Luxembourg that is earmarked to form part of Luxembourg’s first biosphere reserve. The Ellergron region has a rich natural and cultural history. At present an education centre and museum are open to the public at Ellergron. The museum focuses on the historical steel mines that dotted the area in previous centuries.
Representatives of the CWBR joined a group of students, accompanied by a teacher, and departed by bus from Athénée de Luxembourg. The end of the journey was Ellergronn centre and nature reserve. We visited a permanent exhibition on the natural and historical heritage of the region and was shown around the museum of the Cockerill-mine, including an exhibition on life in the mines, by a very informative guide. The mine was in operation from 1882 to 1967. Ellergronn comprises a network of nature reserves, including an indigenous hardwood forest of 1500 ha. The site was bought by the Luxembourg government in 1986 and opened in 2004 as a natural centre. The old unused mine shafts currently house bat species which are protected.
Ellergronn forms part of the core area of Luxembourg’s first biosphere reserve. The proposed biosphere reserve will cover approximately 2600 ha that will include various Natura 2000 sites. At present the nomination of the biosphere reserve is in process and the plan is to submit to UNESCO MAB in 2019. Although there are existing hiking trails in the region, UNESCO is planning to establish a more extensive network of hiking trails throughout the area.
During the afternoon two staff members of the Administration Nature and Forests took the group on a walking tour of the area. We explored the indigenous forest and were overwhelmed by the fall colours. The staff pointed out an old funicular that was used during the time when the mines were in full operation. A section of the area is known as the red rock region which is a Natura 2000 site. Some sections are covered by dry grasslands and in general the biodiversity of the area is very high. Most interesting information was provided by the staff members on the large number of orchids that are associated with the red rock region. Another historical mine site, Mine Prince Henri, was also visited and from there the group returned to the Ellergronn education centre.
It was a very informative outing. The CWBR will follow the nomination of Luxembourg’s biosphere reserve with interest and would like to maintain communication with the future management entity of the biosphere reserve.
Images: Map of Ellergronn, Administration Nature and Forest Staff, Ellergronn dry glasslands, Indigenous hardwood forest, Old funicular, Mine Prince Henri, a fossil in a stone, the Ellergronn sign, mineral rock from extracting steel.