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-cliff_2517649a

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.

Old photograph proves planting date for Madeira Drive green wall

Old photograph proves planting date for Madeira Drive green wall

For some years we have been digging through archives to find the planting date for the Japanese Spindle at Madeira Drive…part of the oldest, longest green wall in the UK.

We have now uncovered this 1872-3 photograph from the James Gray collection that clearly shows the plants at the bottom of the East Cliff – as well as the new hedge being carefully established on the promenade. Benches too – public realm with nature at its heart, 148 years ago.

What a fantastic image – in stereo no less! – and great to have this photographic proof at last.

jg_05_016.jpg

“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.”
Image Reference: JG_05_016.tif
Date: 1872-1873
Image Details: Copy
Size of Original: 188×101
Place: Brighton
Additional Information©Philippe Garner

Housing proposals for Brighton & Hove – green space impacts

See below an open letter from Councillors Steve Bell and Robert Nemeth.

Save Whitehawk Hill Demo

Our interest is in the green space of the city – which is limited, and at risk of recreation pressure, lack of management, and development. Proposals like this will involve mitigation – the question is whether the value of the sites for housing (which the city desperately needs) outweighs the environmental impacts, and whether the impacts can be adequately mitigated. The conservation conundrum, in a nutshell. Local groups like Save Whitehawk Hill (photo) are very concerned.

Brighton & Hove Building Green is not party political – if other parties have a view they should let us know and we would be happy to share it.


Dear Environmental Groups,

7 days to save 16 Brighton & Hove green sites from development=

A Special Brighton & Hove City Council meeting on 23 April will determine whether 16 green sites will be built on.

These include ecologically valuable sites such as Whitehawk Hill and Benfield Valley.  The full list of 16 sites is listed in Section H2, Table 8, Page 178 of the proposed 10-year development plan.

The Conservative group of councillors is taking a strong stand to save these sites and is campaigning hard for the removal of section H2 from the plan entirely which you can read about here.

 However, we currently do not have support from the other party groups:

What you can do to help

With the meeting now 7 days away, you can help by sharing this message with your organisation’s members and contacting your local councillors about their own stance.

You can also help by replying to this email and indicating your support for the Conservative position to delete section H2 from the plan in its entirety.

The more support we can demonstrate from across the community, the better chance we have of stopping the plan in its current form and saving these precious green spaces for future generations.

You can find a link to next week’s Special meeting here.

Yours faithfully,

CLLR STEVE BELL /  CLLR ROBERT NEMETH

On behalf of the Conservative Group

Good news – Madeira Terrace regraded to II*

Good news – Madeira Terrace regraded to II*

Heritage England have regraded Madeira Terrace as a II* structure.

The nerds amongst you will enjoy reading the citation. A few headlines for others:

  • This designation is deserved by ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’
  • There is no other building like it in the English historic record (closest is a Victorian pier)I
  • It’s ‘monolithic’ form is considered very rare of possibly uniqueI
  • It is thought to be the longest cast iron structure in England and possibly the world.

The Madeira Drive green wall gets a special mention:

“Earlier, between 1830 and 1833, the natural East Cliff at Brighton was made good by the application of a concrete covering, and was then planted up to achieve a green wall which is now believed to be the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe, with over 100 species of flowering plants recorded.”

Now to save it…

(Painting by Vincent Donlin)