Sometimes it takes time to make changes. In Hamm on the north-east edge of the Ruhrgebiet the long wait has paid off. For almost a hundred years nature ran wild on the disused site of the old Maximilian colliery. Indeed the natural growth was so successful that it gave rise to the first State Garden Show in North-Rhine Westphalia in 1984. Nowadays the Maximilian park plays host to around 350,000 visitors a year. Here they can walk through natural meadows and woodlands, enjoy the fragrance of heather, dahlias and other blossoms, encounter sculptures and art installations and follow the path to the banks of Lake Maximilian where they can sit and rest. At regular intervals along they way they come across the splendid legacies of a distant past. The main attraction is the old miners’ washrooms to which have been added the gigantic glass head of an elephant. Visitors can take a lift via the elephant’s trunk to the viewing platform 35 metres above the ground from which they can admire the length and breadth of the huge park. The natural greenery mixes harmonically with the red-brick central electricity generating plant, the workshops and the pithead house – all fine relics of local mining history and now used for exhibitions, concerts, cabaret and the like. Nonetheless the main role here is played by nature and its specific local flora. You can find out more about this on a nature study trail or by taking a stroll through the plant world on the old coal tips. A particular highpoint for children is the huge tropical butterfly house – when they are not amusing themselves on the generous playground areas or admiring the historic locomotives and wagons in the lovingly restored railway museum.
Construction on the Maximilian park started in 1902 and nothing went right from the start. Water kept breaking into the shafts and it took almost ten years before mining could begin on a regular basis. But in 1914 the pit flooded once more and the colliery was beyond repair. The Maximilian park has now embedded the carefully restored remaining colliery buildings within a fascinating landscaped garden.