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Clay Pits and Brickyards

Bricks? How exciting!

It may be hard to believe, but the Romans built their Empire on bricks. Roman success would have been inconceivable without brick yards. Once the Romans had left our region and taken their skills with them, we Germans took about 650 years to get the knack of bricks. It was only in the 12th century that we tried our hands at firing bricks. The brick was a blessing for this area - we only have to look at the churches, castles or town walls to see that. This is because there are hardly any stones here and transport is very expensive if you want to build with them. Luckily, the various ice ages and the Rhine have given us an alternative. There are abundant deposits of clay here, from which bricks are made. Clay pits and brick yards came about because of this local raw material; only a few are still in operation today. Clay bricks have now made way for other building materials and tiles are more likely to be used as a floor or wall covering. Demand for the natural product is therefore not as strong as in the days when nearly everything was built out of it. Nature is reclaiming the old pits - if we leave them undisturbed, they fill up with water and become calm ponds. This example shows how surprisingly deeply rooted a landscape is in its ancient history. It is not only natural and cultivated spaces that depend on the soil, the landscape forms and water - even the products of our civilisation are shaped by them and, in turn, give an area its very special character. But the interactions don't end there. There still are some disused clay pits from the brick yards. They have become ponds and in this case provide a habitat for native plant and animal species, which belong to our Lower Rhine just as much as bricks!

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