Exceptional nature in East Belgium: the Mount Saint Peter
25 March 2013 | Article
The Mount Saint Peter is located at the border between the Wallonian and Flemish Regions of Belgium, not far from the Netherlands. This site, exceptional at European level, consists of a large limestone mass overlooking the Meuse and Geer river valleys.
Human, industrial and agricultural activities have over time not only exploited the natural resources of the area, but also shaped its landscape. Soil exploitation (flint, limestone, tuffeau stone) has left vast extraction galleries which are currently hibernation areas for many species of bat. The evolution of intensive or extensive methods of forest and agriculture management has created a mosaic of open and forested spaces.
Among the open spaces, the calcareous grasslands have served as pastures over the centuries for sheep and goats, but their extension has reduced in the last few decades. On the bits which remain today, which are mainly rocky for their geological composition, wild flora and fauna find their habitat – beyond what is considered the Northern limit of their habitat extension in Europe. This wealth in flora and fauna is known and recognized by local and international nature experts.
For its extraordinary nature, the Mount Saint Peter has been the subject of scientific and classification studies, and conservation initiatives by local landowners and actors: the Ville de Visé, scientists, environmental organizations, the Wallonian Region. Currently, the Mount Saint Peter includes a series of regional and national nature reserves. The area is also part of the Natura 2000 network: sites BE33003 – Mount Saint Peter and BE33002 – Low Geer Valley.
Since 2009, at the initiative of Natagora and Natuurpunt, the LIFE Helianthemum project, financially supported by the European Union and the Wallonian Region, has worked on the restoration of the calcareous grassland and more importantly on ensuring their long existence, thanks to a long-term sustainable pasture management system.
The main objective of the LIFE Helianthemum project is to protect the flora and fauna specific to these areas which are rare at European and regional level. After 5 years of intense activities in this project, the Mount Saint Peter will find its calm again, and will be able to sustain the impact of pasture and visits of the general public who will experience such a special nature heritage.
Watch the video by the LIFE Helianthemum project http://www.spalywood.be/video_orchismaster2.html