1. Location and access
This nature reserve covers the former slag heaps of Musson. The reserve is enclosed by a fence. However, it is permitted to walk through the reserve if you go through the entrance gate and follow the authorised pathway crossing the site. This offers you a circular route starting from Musson village (to the north). It is possible to extend to walk toward the communal forest (to the south). Because livestock are present on the reserve, access is by foot only. Do not forget to close the gate behind you when you enter or leave the reserve to prevent the farm animals from escaping.
2. Site status
In 1982, the commune of Musson took ownership of this reclaimed former industrial site, covering an area of around 25 hectares. In 1999, the commune reached an agreement with the Department for Nature and Forests regarding managing the site as a national nature reserve.
From 1885 to 1967, the slagheap was used by a blast furnace and mining company, Société Anonyme des Hauts Fourneaux et Mines, from Musson. This company mined a local iron mineral from the subsoil under the neighbouring communal forest. It treated the mineral by smelting it in the blast furnace using coke. Using this method, it produced cast iron bars, and iron and carbon alloys. These industrial activities produced a solid waste known as clinker, which built up on the site, in quite significant layers in some places. By definition, a slagheap is a build-up of clinker to form a mound.
When the Société Anonyme des Hauts Fourneaux et Mines ceased trading as a company, the clinker was used for many years by a company from Brabant, who ground it up for use as the fill material in road construction.
Afterwards, the site was completely abandoned and nature has gradually reclaimed it.
Clinker provides a very specific substrate for vegetation. Its porous structure and high levels of lime make it completely distinct from the neighbouring clay soils. It is the basis of a developing ecological site that has come to the attention of both naturalists and scientists.
At first, the slagheap was re-colonised by unusual vegetation, adapted to dry soils that heat up quickly and have high levels of calcium. This means that we can also see vegetation found particularly on calcareous grasslands, scree and rocks. The types of plants that enjoy this environment include orchids, wintergreens and stonecrops.
In terms of the fauna, the warm soil attracts certain types of reptiles, mainly lizards and snakes, as well as butterflies and other insects associated with ground hugging vegetation. Birds typical to the local area have also made their home there.
Source: La Gaume naturelle et ses oiseaux (the nature and birds of Gaume)