Great Green Wall – Madeira Drive

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!

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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!

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Nature – the forgotten ingredient

This article by Building Green appeared in The Living Coast newsletter this month, and can be found on their website.


When we talk about creating safe, accessible and attractive towns and cities, we often forget one thing: Nature.

Well, stop and think about this: our species evolved for 2 million years on the African Savannah. That means us humans are hard-wired, physically and mentally, to interact with nature. The Victorians figured out that we feel better when we are amongst it, and build stronger communities when we have access to natural environments around us. We know and love our Victorian parks and the street trees that continue to enhance our city. Even as far back in time as 1750, Lewes’ own Richard Russell (aka ‘Dr Brighton’) published the first book to connect health with sea bathing!

Now, as you may have heard, we are on the cusp of a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity on earth and it’s our fault. We have both rare and everyday plants and animals in our city – and our gardens, parks, allotments, nature reserves, coast and farmland all have a role to play in protecting this biodiversity. But does it really matter? Isn’t biodiversity just for the ‘bird nerds’ and ‘flower fanciers’? Aren’t we apart from nature, not a part of it? What does nature in cities do for us? Well the evidence of how we depend on nature is now quite overwhelming.

Take health, for example. Being active in the natural environment is good for us. The annual cost of inactivity to the NHS in England is £8.2bn. For England as a whole, people living closer to green space have lower death rates and less heart disease. The importance of local green space for kids and poorer communities is especially important for health. Accordingly, doctors are beginning to prescribe a dose of nature in some parts of the country such as Cornwall for example.

There are also functional benefits of course. Greener cities are cooler (our current heatwave temperatures are predicted to be the average by 2050), with better air quality (Brighton & Hove has twice the national limit of harmful nitrous oxides), and better storm water management (we are one of the most at risk locations in the country for surface water flooding).

And what about community? Recent work has estimated that ‘neighbourliness’ delivers a £28bn saving to the UK from increased social connections and demand on policing, social care, welfare and environment. Creating and managing green features is an opportunity for community activity and cohesion, and the greener our places, the less crime we are likely to suffer. For example, one major study in the US recorded 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes in green Chicago estates.

Green roofs at the University of Brighton’s Checkland building, Falmer campus (James Farrell)

But what about the places in between the green spaces – the buildings themselves that define ‘city’ in the first place? Long gone is the traditional mindset of preserving nature behind fenced off reserves. Nature is out and proud – on green roofs, green walls, balconies and terraces. The local voluntary initiative of ‘Brighton & Hove Building Green’ believes that we can do better with these often under-utilised and ‘wasted’ spaces, and bring about many more of these benefits.

Thanks to imaginative planning policies in places like London, the UK ‘green roof’ movement is growing at 17% annually – the fastest growth in Europe! Here in Brighton & Hove, a recent study identified 87 football pitches-worth of roofs in a 9km2 area of the city centre that were suitable for greening – providing benefits for urban drainage, avoided air conditioning and urban cooling. And hey, they look great – certainly better than boring felt or shingle ballasted roofs, or much of our blank city wall space. Brighton & Hove City Council does have supportive planning policies and it’s not difficult to find great examples of green roofs and walls in Brighton without too much standing on tip-toes: The Level cafe for example, the Crew Club in Whitehawk, the garden in Regency Square that covers the underground car park, the green walls in the New England streets behind Brighton Station, and the wonderful wildflower roofs on the Phoenix ‘container housing’ at the old Cobbler’s Thumb site near Preston Circus.

Green roof on the Velo Café, Brighton, created by ‘Organic Roofs’ (James Farrell)

At Building Green, we believe that creating a better Brighton & Hove is not just worthwhile, but achievable. We also know that evidence is not enough – people change when they feel as well as think, and we need green spaces for people to experience and interact with personally, as often as possible.

So here’s an idea. Take a walk down Duke’s Mound from Marine Parade to see the green wall – our long, leafy wonder. You may notice how it cools the air, and how the greens perfectly offset the sea and the buildings of Regency Kemptown. You may see butterflies, bees and birds and maybe catch the scent of wallflower or Spanish gorse. You may notice figs, gladioli and ferns, and how much slower and calmer people seem as they walk along. Why not try it at the weekend – I’ll bet you will feel a difference!

Green wall on Madeira Drive, Brighton (James Farrell)

So let’s remember that key ingredient and cherish our most important landscapes, sites and wild places, both in the city and without. But let’s also take down those metaphorical fences and bring nature into the very fabric of the city and into our everyday lives. After all, we may very well depend on it.

Ton up! Over 100 species found at Madeira Drive Green Wall

Building Green’s intrepid survey squad spent last weekend under the terraces at Madeira Drive. Armed with clipboards and Bob the Builder hats, we surveyed the extent and health of the green wall, and updated the list of plants and other wildlife found there.

The results are in. Ton up! We have now broken the 100 species barrier…104 species of plant to be exact…and found a number of other wildlife using the wall that we hadn’t seen before. We counted 117 trunks of 150 year old Japanese Spindle – not including the plants at Duke’s Mound further East, or those in the planters on the terrace itself.

This really strengthens the case to designate this wall a ‘local wildlife site’ in the Council’s forthcoming City Plan. It would be the only green wall site of importance for nature conservation in the UK, and deserves this recognition.

Here is the full list of species. Interesting finds include Japanese Holly Fern, shown below, Hoary Stock, and Holly Blue and Painted Lady butterflies.

Big thanks to our volunteers, and to the Council for the PPE and access.

Download a PDF of the surveyMadeira Drive Green Wall Plant Species List 12.09.2017

Species list from survey 12 September 2017

Scientific Name Common Name
Faunal Records  
Vulpes vulpes Fox
Passer doemesticus House sparrow
Prunella modularis Dunnock
Parus major Great tit
Troglodytes troglodytes Wren
Columba livia Wood pigeon
Turdus merula Blackbird
Celastrina argiolus Holly blue
Vanessa cardui Painted lady
Vanessa atalanta Red admiral
Meles meles Honey bee
Bombus lucorum White tailed bumblebee
   
Bryophytes  
Barbula cylindrical  
Barbula sardoa  
Barbula unguiculata  
Didymodon tophaceus  
Didymodon luridus  
Didymodon rigidulus  
Rhynchostegiella tenella  
Tortula muralis  
   
Vascular Plants  
Acer pseudoplatanus Sycamore
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Agrostis stolonifera Creeping bent
Anisantha sterilis Barren brome
Anthriscus caucalis Bur chervil
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow parsley
Arctium minus Lesser burdock
Asplenium adiantum-nigrum Black spleenwort
Avena sativa Common oat
Ballota nigra Black horehound
Bellis perennis Daisy
Berberis darwinii Darwin’s barberry
Brassica rapa Turnip
Buddleja davidii Butterfly bush
Campanula porscharskyana Trailing bellflower
Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd’s purse
Carex pendula Pendulous sedge
Catapodium marinum Sea fern grass
Catapodium rigidum Hard fern grass
Centranthus ruber Red valerian
Cerastium fontanum Common mouse-ear
Chenopodium album Fat-hen
Crithmum maritimum Rock samphire
Cirsium arvense Creeping thistle
Cirsium vulgare Spear thistle
Clematis vitalba Traveller’s joy
Convolvulus arvensis Field bindweed
Conyza canadensis Canadian fleabane
Coronopus squamatus Greater swinecress
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora Monbretia
Cymbalaria muralis Ivy-leaved toadflax
Cyrtomium falcatum House Holly Fern
Dactylis glomerata Cock’s-foot
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Diplotaxis muralis Annual wall rocket
Epilobium ciliatum American willowherb
Epilobium hirsutum Great willowherb
Erigeron glaucus Seaside daisy
Erigeron karvinskianus Mexican fleabane
Erysimum cheiri Wallflower
Euonymus japonicus Japanese spindle
Ficus carica Fig
Galium aparine Cleavers
Genista hispanica Spanish gorse
Geranium molle Dove’s-foot crane’s-bill
Geum urbanum Wood avens
Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus Eastern gladiolus
Hedera helix Englsh ivy
Hemerocallis fulva Orange day-lily
Hordeum murinum Wall barley
Hyacinthoides hispanica Spanish bluebell
Hypochaeris radicata Cat’s ear
Lactuca serriola Prickly lettuce
Linaria purpurea Purple toadflax
Lolium perenne Perennial ryegrass
Malva sylvestris Common mallow
Malva x clementii Garden tree mallow
Matthiola incana Hoary stock
Melilotus officinalis Ribbed melilot
Narcissus pseudonarcissus cv. Garden daffodil
Onopordum acanthium Cotton thistle
Parietaria judiaca Pellitory-of-the-wall
Pentagottis sempervirens Blue alkanet
Phyllitis scolopendrium Hart’s-tongue fern
Picris echioides Bristly ox-tongue
Picris hieracioides Hawkweed ox-tongue
Plantago coronopus Stag’s-horn plantain
Plantago lanceolata Ribwort plantain
Plantago major Greater plantain
Poa annua Annual meadow grass
Polypodium vulgare Common polypody
Rubus fruticosus Blackberry
Rumex crispus Curled dock
Rumex obtusifolius Broad-leaved dock
Sagina apetela Annual pearlwort
Sagina procumbens Procumbent pearlwort
Sambucus nigra Elder
Sedum acre Biting stonecrop
Sedum album English stonecrop
Senecio cineraria Silver ragwort
Senecio viscosus Stick ragwort
Senecio vulgaris Groundsel
Silene alba White campion
Sisybrium officinale Hedge mustard
Sisybrium orientale Oriental rocket
Smyrmium olusatrum Alexanders
Solanum dulcamara Bittersweet
Sonchus asper Prickly sow-thistle
Sonchus oleraceus Smooth sow-thistle
Sonchus arvensis Perennial sow-thistle
Spergularia marina Lesser sea spurrey
Stellaria media Common chickweed
Taraxacum officinale agg. Dandelion
Triticum aestivum Bread wheat
Urtica dioica Common nettle
Veronica x franciscana Hedge veronica

New study highlights importance of green wall plant choices for air quality benefits

The study by the UK Green Wall Centre in Staffordshire looked at this green wall at New Street station, Birmingham.

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It found ‘promising potential for removal of atmospheric PM (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10). The researchers noted that careful species selection is crucial to optimize living walls as PM filters. ‘Smaller-leaved species, hairy leaf surfaces and [waxy leaves] enhance the PM capture potential of living wall-plants.’

For more, go here.

 

Save Madeira Terraces – £160k raised so far, £270k to go!

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Have you donated yet to the ‘Save Madeira Terrace’ campaign?

The campaign has now raised over £160,000 from more than 700 local people and businesses who are committed to preserving its future – as well as celebrating its past. Minimum donation is £2. Please spread the word and share this link: Spacehive – Save Madeira Terrace

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Building Green – the Bible

Tucked away on the resources section of the Building Green website is a broken link that tells the story of how this group came about.

London Ecology Unit published a highly influential book in 1993 called ‘Building Green – A guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements’. It was a prescient tome – heralding techniques and approaches from across Europe and the world that came established only years later in the UK, Building Green was a systemic, ecological approach to urban nature. It became the name of our community group.

When at the Greater London Authority, I created an electronic version of the out of print manuscript – the broken link referred to. Well, here it is in all its free, downloadable glory. Go crazy.

Johnstone and Newton – Building Green

In particular note the appendices which list plants for different locations – walls of different aspects, balconies, roofs etc. Check it out, it’s great – all credit to the originators Jacklyn Johnston and John Newton.

Save Madeira Terrace!

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Help us restore our iconic arches to their former glory! We will save this historical structure from falling into disrepair, in the process creating a new lively quarter for Brighton.

Save Madeira Terrace  is a crowdfunding campaign launched on 26 June and running until  30 Nov 2017 by which time it needs to raise £432,598.

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Brighton & Hove Building Green is a partner in this project, as the terraces sit hand in glove with Europe’s longest, oldest green wall.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509