The news of the cutting of the green wall has spread far and wide.
Most striking has been the outpouring of local concern and sadness at how the work was completed, an apology from The Council, and a memorial event yesterday (involving a minute’s silence and a wreath laying) organised by local people and members of Madeira Drive campaign groups.
Meanwhile, Building Green volunteers have replanted a section of the wall on Duke’s Mound, as part of our long term project to restore the wall to its former length.
Building Green awaits the report of what happened exactly, so we can ensure that all parties learn from this for the future.
However we do know that the cutting included a very large fig, several stools of Japanese spindle planted in 1872, and the removal of large specimens of Spanish gorse and Darwin’s barberry. A number of ferns have been exposed and died. This section of wall was used by dunnock, wren and blackbird.
We know from our coppicing trials elsewhere on the green wall, and from recent work in partnership with the Council to protect or translocate older plants, that with the right care and attention it can regrow. There are some signs this is already happening.
However, regular cutting back and trimming would have avoided this situation from developing in the first place. So, as next steps, we will be encouraging the Council to work with us and local people to:
- tidy and care for this section of wall now, with feeding, to maximise regrowth
- establish a management plan for the whole green wall
- set up budget and resources for regular maintenance, to ensure public access and safety along the pavement, optimum conditions for wildlife, and long term health of the green wall
- incorporate the full linear extent of the green wall into the ‘MT30’ project, which is looking at the restoration of Madeira Terrace.
A few recent happenings on Madeira Drive Green Wall – our natural backdrop to the eastern seafront.
1 – Recent loss of historic section of green wall
Building Green was saddened by recent action on 12 March to cut down a section of historic green wall next to the Volks workshop. Originally planted in 1872, approximately 6-8 Japanese spindle plants were cut, along with a large fig tree that was popular with local people. There was no prior notice or communication with Building Green.
This section of wall is part of the recently declared Local Wildlife Site – the only one of its kind in the UK.
The Council are commissioning a report into what happened, but the work is believed to have been a miscommunication relating to the creation of the new cycleway along Madeira Drive.
Building Green are hoping the spindle will grow back – our trials of copping these plants elsewhere along the green wall shows that they can regenerate, so we remain optimistic.
2 – Joining up the whole green wall with the MT30 project
Building Green is looking to prevent further miscommunication and ensure that the entire historic length of the green wall is considered as part of the regeneration of Madeira Drive.
As such we were pleased to have agreement from the Madeira Terraces MT30 project that the full length of green wall – east to the top of Duke’s Mound – will be included in the MT30 project.
3 – New planting at Duke’s Mound
Building Green has been unable to conduct any volunteer maintenance of the Duke’s Mound stretch of green wall during the pandemic.
However, Building Green’s Treasurer & Son have been quietly growing cuttings of Japanese spindle and will be planting these out in a recently re-surfaced section of the East cliff.
We are proud to see this volunteer action underway – as part of restoring the original extent of the green wall.
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.
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.
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.
Building Green founder James Farrell has a new venture, The Human Nature Partnership.
James and partner Lee Evans will be hosting a free webinar, lunchtime 24 June.
Very relevant for followers of Building Green, we will be looking at the health benefits of nature and how to unlock them.
Hope to see you then.
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.
See below an open letter from Councillors Steve Bell and Robert Nemeth.
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.
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:
- The Labour administration is backing the plan and offering no amendments
- The Greens’ position is not to save these 16 sites from development so we are lobbying now to win them over to this important environmental cause.
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.
CLLR STEVE BELL / CLLR ROBERT NEMETH
On behalf of the Conservative Group
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)