Anyone spending time in the Rheinland Nature Park comes across traces of past eras. From Roman times to the time of electors, to the age of industrialization until today, people have written their own stories in the Rheinland Nature Park. Some locations give you an idea of how it might have looked like a long time ago.
Franks and electors
The large connected forested areas in the “Kottenforstes” and the Ville were early favourite hunting grounds of the Fränkisch sovereign. The “Kottenforst” is first mentioned in a document of the seventh century. Later, the area was under the German emperors as a “Reichsgut”. In 973, Otto XI transferred the right to hunt big game to the archbishop of Cologne. In turn, archbishop Anno XI of Cologne bequeathed the forest to Siegburg Abbey, which sold it to the archbishops of Cologne in 1549.
The archbishops and electors of the Wittelsbach house in Cologne dedicated themselves with great care to the maintenance of the forests in the 17th and 18th centuries. A glorious time was experienced in the area under the most joyous hunter Clemens August. After the Cologne electors were outcast from Cologne / Bonn, the Brühl residence became their temporary residence and it flourished under their care.
Romans and knights
The village settlements of the Jülich-Zülpicher Börde begin west of the forest area. Peasant farmsteads existed in Roman times already (50 BC - 400AD) and they supplied the garrison along the Rhine. The cultivation and colonization of the country took place in multiple stages in the early to late Middle Ages (5th - 13th century). Since then, mixed farming has been the livelihood in the Börde and dense forests have been cleared to make space for it. The deforestation was mainly carried out by churches and monasteries (Prüm, Cornelimünster, Siegburg). The manors were assigned as “Lehnshöfe” and secured the respective sphere of influence. There were many fortified farmsteads surrounded by moats along the Erft and the Swist. Later they were expended to castles and palaces. From the 9th century,the western border of the Ville flowing Erft marked the borderline between the claims of power of the earls of Jülich and the Archbishop of Cologne.
Agriculture and coal mining
The foothills, located at the eastern part of the Ville, is also settlement country. Favourable climate and fertile soil made it possible for efficient agricultural and horticultural businesses to emerge. Fruit and vegetable growing dominates in the area today. The period of industrialization completely changed and reshaped the landscape. Coal was already mined in the 18th and 19th century. There are still historic relicts from the early stages, such as trenches, dumps, and water-filled pits in the reforested area between Brühl and Liblar. Because of increased energy demand, coal mining was operated extensively in the 20th century with advanced technical capabilities. The subsequent replenishment and recultivation changed the landscape of the northern Ville substantially: New areas for agriculture and forestry have been created.