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Hands-on! Young Experts Restore Scenic Dry Stone Walls

Following the motto of the Young Experts Forum – “Towards a Sustainable Management of World Heritage Sites” – the Young Experts do not only exchange ideas and talk about World Heritage in theory, but experience and test one mean towards sustainable management: The participants become volunteers and involve themselves practically in the conservation of the World Heritage site Upper Middle Rhine Valley.


Together with local constructors they preserve the cultural landscape in four different workshops: they preserve the countryside through bush clearance, restore historical roof windows, do construction research at a Gothic chapel and restore scenic dry stone walls.

The group restoring the scenic dry stone walls has a very special working place: they enjoy an incredible view over the Rhine, the small town St. Goar, the Loreley statue, trees and one of the many castles of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley while working. 

Due to rain and lighter earthquakes, there are two holes in one of the scenic dry stone walls on the hill. Peter, Helge and Dietmar, dry stone wall constructors who live in the region and restored these walls for their whole life, explain to the young experts how the dry stone wall can be repaired. At first the young experts have to find the different stones needed to restore the wall: there are big stones, small ones, some with a straight surface, some without. So they learn the difference of the stones and understand quickly which stones are needed. Together with the supervisors they start to put one stone onto another, building row after row. How can you pile the stones best? How do they fit together? The new wall has to be solid and stable but at the same time esthetic. 

In the past, dry stone walls were needed to cultivate the wine and therefore had a high economic significance. Today they especially shape the impressive landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and have a high ecological value. 

After the work for the day is done, the group joins the other groups in Oberwesel for local dinner and wine hosted by local wine association “Riesling Charta” and connects to the people living in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The young experts continue their work for two more half days. They will finish their volunteer work with tangible results like dry stone walls that last for many more years, newly restored windows and a mapping of an old chapel which will build the basis for upcoming research. 

The international solidarity experienced in the hands-on work parts is what World Heritage is about. The participants say: “It’s a good mean to involve the local community. This is what makes World Heritage sustainable: to involve the local community, to use the traditional knowledge and techniques and to support the regional infrastructure.” 


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