Building Green’s page on the history of Madeira Drive has been updated. There’s more to do – this is undoubtedly a passion project! – but it’s a fascinating story so why not take a look.
This article appeared in The Living Coast newsletter this month.
Did you know that a particular jewel in our ‘green building’ crown is on Madeira Drive?
A hotbed of Victorian invention, Madeira Drive’s history has seen piers, an aquarium, an electric railway and ‘Daddy Longlegs seagoing car’, the first speedway and the ‘famous sheltered walk’ – Madeira Terrace. Well, in amongst all that, 150 years ago, the Victorians planted a ‘green wall’. The engineers had the foresight to build the Madeira Terrace in a way which enabled the planting to continue growing up the East Cliff – a rare early example in this country of integrating built and natural environments!
The green wall has grown in majesty since its humble beginnings as a backdrop of evergreen Japanese Spindle, which was planted to soften and improve the appearance of the developing seafront.
A recent survey by Building Green found over 100 species of plants growing on the wall, which – although much reduced from its original extent – is almost certainly the oldest, longest, green wall in Europe! The Madeira Drive Green Wall is now a candidate ‘Local Wildlife Site’ – the only one of its kind in the UK!
The Duke’s Mound end is managed by Green Gym volunteers in partnership with Building Green, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Ecology Consultancy.
Madeira Terraces are, of course, in need of restoration as part of a newly regenerated East Brighton seafront. Building Green is working with Brighton & Hove City Council and its “Save the Terraces” Campaign to ensure that this regeneration celebrates and enhances both the built and natural environments along the seafront.
What a great opportunity to connect more people with nature – the mission of The Living Coast – whilst honouring our Victorian legacy and creating a place that people really want to spend time in for the next 150 years!
Building Green attended an important first meeting about the future of Madeira Drive recently.
The Council hosted the meeting, and invitees included a number of community organisations like ours, local businesses, interested residents and others. There were some big names in the room, which bodes well for the level of interest in regenerating the neglected East Brighton seafront.
Building Green spoke about the value and importance of the Madeira Drive Green Wall, which contributes vital natural heritage alongside the built heritage of the seafront. We will be offering the expertise the support of our volunteers to ensure the green wall is protected and enhanced as part of any future development.
The meeting discussed the new crowdfunding appeal – to be launched soon – plans and suggestions for future development, and ‘meanwhile’ uses to bring much needed life, recreation and business activity to Madeira Drive.
On our way to the meeting, we stopped off at the Fishing Museum and found a woodcut that offers an important clue to the founding of the green wall. For some time, Building Green has been looking for evidence of when the wall was first planted (with Japanese Spindle). Our hunch was that it was earlier than 1880, though the only documentary evidence points to 1882 (JB Evison 1969 ‘Gardening by the sea’). Well, I know you’re holding your breath, so…the woodcut print was published in 1872 and seems to show evenly spaced shrubs planted along the footing of the cliff. How exciting!
For a full history of our wonderful Madeira Drive, visit our unique page.
Brighton & Hove Building Green have published a history of ‘Maddy’ – our beloved seafront road in East Brighton which is home to the oldest and longest green wall in the UK.
It’s a story of Victorian invention, bringing together technology, engineering, the environment and health and enjoyment.
Visit the Madeira Drive page to find out more.
This superb shot by Paul Norman has recently come to our attention. It’s 1985 – shows the green wall East of the shelter hall is fully intact…sadly a few of these veteran (planted c1880) Japanese spindle trunks are missing now, but it’s still one of the best bits of green wall on the whole stretch. Also visible are the hedges that used to exist along on the southern edge of the terrace. Does anyone know what year they were taken out?
Building Green is meeting with the Council on Friday to talk through the proposals for redevelopment of Madeira Drive. We are keen to offer our expertise and support.
Paul’s group Hanover Action, are doing some fantastic work to improve the quality of life for Hanover residents. Check them out here.
The next opportunity to learn how to ‘do green roofs yourself’ is coming up.
On the weekend of 29 & 30 October, Building Green with Organic Roofs and Brighton Permaculture Trust, is running a workshop on the subject.
For bookings go here.
These highly successful workshops have been running for several years. Don’t miss this opportunity to have a fun weekend of learning about this fascinating subject, picking up new skills and quizzing the experts on how to ‘do it yourself’.
For bookings go here.
Portslade Green Gym volunteers will be at the Madeira Drive green wall again this week, working up a sweat whilst maintaining our natural heritage.
They will be tidying up the vegetation along the footpath, helping to maintain the biodiversity of the area whilst keeping things shipshape for pedestrians.
Why not pop along during the morning of 13 October 2016.
Building Green is working with the Council and volunteers to protect this Victorian green wall – planted c1850 – and in time restore it along its length. It is the longest of its kind in the UK, and was planned alongside the unique listed Victorian ironwork of Madeira Terrace, the Shelter Hall, and the Volks Electric Railway.
Find out more here – more coming soon.