Update on the MT30 Project – Madeira Terrace restoration

Update on the MT30 Project – Madeira Terrace restoration

An update in my role as environment sector rep on the Madeira Terrace stakeholder panel. As ever, send through any questions or concerns to me via the contact page.

Remember the purpose of the project is to select c30 arches for restoration, to improve the seafront, prove the case and build momentum for funding the remaining 121 arches.

The design team is now at RIBA Stage 2 (see below). This is the phase of design that starts to get interesting, with drawings and initial whole life costings. A 3D model and topographical survey are underway across the whole Terrace. We haven’t seen this yet but will share it when complete.

The original date for groundworks was October – unsurprisingly, this is delayed. The major work of planning consents and contractor procurement remain, a major decisions still to make.

What is exciting is that many of our original ideas have been put forward and developed further, including the potential for planting parts of the mid-level walk (‘Max’s walk’), ideas for natural stormwater management and sustainable energy creation, and of course the protection and enhancement of the Green Wall.

How many of these get through cost consultancy we will see. Certainly the Green Wall is recognised now as an integral part of Madeira Drive. I will continue to push for its retention, enhancement and restoration as part of the wider seafront environment.


The RIBA Plan of Work 2020 in 2019 — Architecture for London

Beautiful berries – this winter the green wall at Madeira Drive bears more fruit than average. Here are six interesting facts about this amazing plant

Beautiful berries – this winter the green wall at Madeira Drive bears more fruit than average. Here are six interesting facts about this amazing plant

This year has been particularly good for Japanese spindle berries at the Madeira Drive green wall. Who knows why?

While we ponder that, here are some facts about this amazing plant.

  1. Seeds are propogated by birds
  2. It depends on bees, flies and hoverflies to pollinate the flowers
  3. It is very tolerant of salty conditions, and a wide range of soil types
  4. Roots and stems yield up to 7% gutta-percha, a non-elastic rubber used as an electrical insulator and in making plastics
  5. Decoctions from the bark are considered to be tonic, anti-rheumatic, anhidoritic and diuretic. Chinese women use the leaves to aid difficult childbirths
  6. It is host to a wide variety of invertebrates including Unaspis euonymi, a sap-sucking ‘scale’ insect; and dusty grey/black vine weevils, Otiorhynchus sulcatus, which can take notched nibbles out of leaf edges.
Japanese spindle tree in fruit against wall

Sources: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/23206#tosummaryOfInvasiveness

Update from Building Green

Update from Building Green

The following update was published today in the Brighton & Hove Green Spaces Forum winter newsletter.

Protecting the oldest, longest ‘green wall’ in the UK – Building Green needs advice and input. Building Green have been working with the Council, Portslade Green Gym and others for several years to bring Madeira Drive Green Wall the recognition it deserves. Now designated a Local Wildlife Site – the first of its kind in the UK – the green wall is home to over 100 species of flowering plant and is the oldest and longest green wall in the country, if not Europe.

Planted in 1872, the green wall originally covered over a mile of Brighton East Cliff below Kemp Town. Parts of the site have been lost and damaged over the years, but extensive stretches remain. Building Green have been leading its restoration – particularly at the Duke’s Mound end of Madeira Drive – and have a vision to protect, enhance and restore the green wall to its former extent.

The green wall pre-dates Madeira Terrace – the Grade II* structure which is the focus of work to restore and regenerate the East Brighton seafront. Building Green represent the Natural Environment on a stakeholder panel that was established by the Council to advise on this work, which is on track to begin with the restoration of 30 arches of the Terrace this autumn.

Building Green welcomes volunteers, who can get in touch through our website at https://building-green.org.uk/contact-us/ .

We also welcome input from Green Spaces Forum members on the restoration plans for Madeira Terrace – particularly in terms of the environmental components of the seafront and wider built and natural heritage.

Download the winter newsletter below.

Tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall at this year’s Green Architecture Sessions – come learn about this unique and threatened place at the heart of Brighton & Hove

Tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall at this year’s Green Architecture Sessions – come learn about this unique and threatened place at the heart of Brighton & Hove

Green Architecture Sessions is the new ‘Green Architecture Day’ by Brighton Permaculture Trust.

11-1145 am, Saturday 3 October there will be a tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall by Building Green Founder James Farrell.

There are a number of great talks by inspiring speakers – so book your slot here.

Green Architecture Sessions 2020

Volunteering cancelled at Madeira Drive green wall

Volunteering cancelled at Madeira Drive green wall

Unfortunately green wall maintenance has been stopped again, as Covid-19 restrictions continue.

The council don’t allow volunteers over 70 years old to work at present, and of course as of today not in groups over 6. Our mighty Green Gym guys and gals fail on both counts…we hope they are keeping active and connected to each other in other ways.

It’s a tough decision. Parts of the green wall are now growing onto the pavement, so Building Green has asked the council to organise some cutting back.

We look forward to restrictions lifting and work starting up again as soon as possible.

Unlocking care for the Madeira Drive Green Wall

Unlocking care for the Madeira Drive Green Wall

Those intrepid volunteers from Green Gym are going to be back in action this month, caring for the precious planting along Duke’s Mound.

Part of the Maderia Drive Green Wall, they cut back red valerian, ivy and other plants which can crowd out more sensitive vegetation, and generally do a sterling job of making the area look great. They have fun whilst they do it too!

Thursday 17 September, 10am, Duke’s Mound

They will take all necessary Covid-19 precautions as they do it, alongside their usual attention to health, safety and wellbeing.

Green walls – why bother?

Green walls – why bother?

Our ‘Green Building‘ page has a summary of the benefits of green roofs. But what of green walls? Why kinds are there, and what do they do?

These days there’s a fashion for green walls that involve technical, modular systems which support pocket planting of a huge array of vegetation. Your local supermarket may have one, or you might spot an internal ‘living wall’ in a boutique in town. There’s no doubt these living wall systems can be stunning – with great examples at Westfields in Shepherd’s Bush, and on The Rubens at The Palace in Victoria, London.

However, simple is good too, and simple green walls using trailing or climbing plants have been around for millenia. Taken in the round, and considering the energy it takes to create and eventually dispose of a green wall, and the benefits during its life, these simple green walls perform best.

Benefits include:

  • Prolonging building fabric
  • Trapping pollutants which accelerate decay
  • Biodiversity
  • Visual amenity
  • Property value
  • Cooling

If you’ve got some spare time, take a look at this talk on Green Walls by James Farrell of Brighton & Hove Building Green and Lee Evans of Organic Roofs Ltd. at Green Architecture Day 2017.

Lee goes on to talk about living roofs, so it’s a twofer.

We have a historic example right here in Brighton & Hove. The green wall at Madeira Drive is the oldest and longest in the country, and was planted in 1872. It now supports over 100 species of wild plant and a range of other wildlife.

Building Green image of green wall
Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton

Here is a short film about Madeira Drive Green Wall.

What about your house, block of flats, or workplace? Yes, they can have a green wall too. The book ‘Building Green’ contains tips on how to do it, and a handy planting guide to help you select the right plants for your local environment and the benefits you are seeking.

Building Green - a guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements

Get planting!

Classic urban greening book exceeds 3500 downloads

Classic urban greening book exceeds 3500 downloads

Building Green is a classic book about urban green infrastructure by Jacklyn Johnston and John Newton at The London Ecology Unit. Now out of print, it was turned into an e-book by James Farrell, Founder of Brighton & Hove Building Green when at the Greater London Authority. It has been available to download for free ever since.

More than 3500 people have downloaded the book from Brighton & Hove Building Green, and you can too – just click on the image below or visit our links and resources page.

The book inspired the name of our community group, a CIRIA publication on green architecture called ‘Building Greener’ and was influential in the modern green roof revolution here in the UK.

Building Green - a guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements

The planting guides at the back are particularly useful – with advice on choosing plants for everything from window boxes and balconies, to green walls and green roofs.

Madeira Terrace – restoration planning begins

Madeira Terrace – restoration planning begins

Building Green Chair James Farrell represents natural heritage on the Madeira Terrace Stakeholder Advisory Panel. 

Any readers with an interest in environment, and the protection and enhancement of the Madeira Drive Green Wall, can feed ideas into James by contacting us.

Recent activity has included:

  • Appointing a design team, including famous architects Purcell Architecture
  • Sub-contractors Landscape Projects Ltd. developing plans for landscaping including the protection of the Green Wall
  • Scoping advice for contractors to avoid damage to the green wall during the period before restoration, and during any future work
  • Exploring the use of car parking costs for Madeira Terrace restoration

Meetings are monthly, if you have comments or concerns do send them in.

Painting by Vincenzo Donlini.

Oscar Wilde and the green wall

Oscar Wilde and the green wall

What has Oscar Wilde got to do with the Madeira Drive green wall?

Bear with. Madeira Road was opened in 1870, forming a new promenade along the bottom of East Cliff, and connecting people from the wealthy Brighton and Kemp Town with the seaside. Our new theory is that it was named ‘Madeira’ after the island’s greenery.

One man who did much to popularise Madeira as the ‘garden isle’ was Sir William Wilde…you guessed it…father of Oscar. An excellent botanist, he wrote of the vines and terraced gardens, praising the ‘hothouse of the open air’ that he grew to know on his visits from the late 1830s. Madeira became popular with Victorian visitors through the 19th Century for much the same reasons that Brighton did – for the health giving properties of seaside living and recreation, as well as its luxuriant gardens.


Madeira Drive green wall was planted in 1872, and we expect that it was always part of the vision of for Madeira Road to establish vegetation to soften the hard cliff and new road, and encourage people to spend time there.

brighton seafront 1872 chain pier cliff planting people James Gray collection

A later photograph, probably about 1872/1873. By now, the Aquarium had been built, on the site of the esplanade, and the few hesitant steps towards the construction of Madeira Drive had commenced. Note the long line of sapling trees and the ladies’ bathing machines.
Both are, of course, recent copies of old stereoscopic photographs.

So Madeira Drive Green Wall is extra well named…our little slice of the ‘garden isle’ on the Sussex coast.

And what of Oscar? A frequent Brighton visitor, and sometime Worthing resident, Oscar lectured in the Pavilion in 1884, avoided long walks, and crashed his cart into the railings of Regency Square in 1894. I don’t know that he ever saw the newly established saplings of Japanese Spindle of Madeira Road…but I hope that he did.

With thanks to Derek Wright for the prompt to research this piece.