From an aristocrat's palace to a paradise for amphibians

Hueth Castle

Hueth Castle, surrounded by a moat, has been standing since the 14th century. As part of the political patchwork quilt of this region it belonged to the Cologne Electorate. With an outer ward and main castle it must have been a well-fortified complex because in 1598 Spanish troops only managed to plunder the outer ward. The main castle withstood them. But unfortunately military technology did not stand still. Hardly anything of the beautiful complex remained after the Second World War. Today, only a corner tower of the castle is still standing at the back of the site. The left-hand outer ward was repaired and extended as the new home of today's owner, Friedrich Freiherr von Wittenhorst-Sonsfeld, while the much more severely damaged main castle on the right-hand side is still a ruin. The moat has proved to be more resilient than the architecture. Undamaged, it still encircles the castle grounds. Its calm and clean water provides an ideal habitat for many species of amphibians. Smooth and great crested newts are fairly secretive specimens that you should hardly ever see because they spend the majority of their lives in the water. Common toads enter the water only to mate and to spawn, but they are very well camouflaged on land. You are most likely to be lucky at the time of toad migration when the female sets off to the spawning waters with her mate in tow. The grass frog also prefers to live on land, but depends on still waters for mating, spawning and tadpoles. At the end of March we can hear its rumbling mating call. It is quite fitting that the castle moat has become home to such inhabitants - they have probably always been here. After all, moats were largely a form a psychological warfare. The reflection in the water made the fortifications look bigger. Furthermore, people in the Middle Ages and the early modern era were extremely frightened of amphibians. Newts, toads, frogs and salamanders were associated with death and the devil. Today's communities in the moat would have greatly reduced the willingness of a soldier to wade through the moat!

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