From block field to blast furnace
Discover the world’s first geopark in a conurbation and learn how rocks and soil influence our lives in GeoPark Ruhrgebiet.
A geopark in the middle of the Ruhr Area? In the middle of Europe’s third-largest conurbation? How could that be possible? Well it is! In 2005, GeoPark Ruhrgebiet was certified as a national geopark in Germany. It is in fact the world’s first geopark located within a conurbation, and in keeping with the history of the Ruhr Area, it mainly focuses on the region’s coal and steel heritage. In other respects, however, it fulfils the brief of a geopark, namely to raise awareness of geology. Geoparks are created to help people understand how the landscape they see around them was originally formed, what rocks and raw materials lie beneath their feet, and how geology and soil types influence land use. In other words, how does a region’s geology affect our daily lives and how did it influence the lives of our forebears?
GeoPark Ruhrgebiet contains as many as three national geotopes. The 4,500 km2 park is dotted with several places of geological interest, including the bizarre block field near Hemer, the cradle of coal-mining in Witten and the world’s oldest fossilised flying insects, which were discovered in a brickworks in Hagen. More than one hundred geologically significant sites bear witness to the fascinating origins of this region, giving visitors unique insight into the relationship between natural resources and socio-economic development, especially as a result of the mining industry. The ground has been excavated in many places, so visitors can experience at first hand the rock and fossil record of the past 400 million years.
GeoRoute Ruhr in the south – bustling cities in the north
Located where Germany’s low mountain ranges meet the North German Plain, the landscape within the geopark offers plenty of variety. The south of the Ruhr Area is particularly rich in geotopes. The best way to explore them is with a leisurely walk or an extended hike in the idyllic landscape of the Ruhr valley. Here, in the cradle of the coal-mining industry, coal seams reached right up to the surface in many places. The GeoRoute Ruhr takes walkers on a 185-kilometre route from Schwerte to Mülheim an der Ruhr. Hiking guides and information boards point the way through the geological, mining and cultural history of the Ruhr Area. The GeoRoute Ruhr links up with over 20 different mining- and geology-themed hiking paths to create a varied 300-kilometre-long network.
In the north, visitors encounter the bustling cities of the Ruhr Metropolis with their colossal mineworks and coking plants, many of which have been transformed into fascinating venues for culture and the arts. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex and the Zollern Colliery in Dortmund, to name two examples, today provide impressive showcases for exhibitions, music and literature. Many of the region’s old slag-heaps have also been developed for visitors. The Hoheward slag-heap in Recklinghausen, for instance, has become an imposing landmark offering panoramic views. The landscape of GeoPark Ruhrgebiet opens up towards the north. Here, the development becomes less dense and more expansive patches of green become evident where the central Ruhr Area meets Münsterland. This part of the geopark is ideal for cyclists, who can take a journey back in time to the Cretaceous period and the Ice Age.
Opening hours of the Information Centre of LWL-Industriemuseum Zeche Nachtigall (Nightingale Coal Mine Industrial Museum):
Tuesday - Sunday and public holidays: 10:00 - 18:00