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.
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 survey: Madeira Drive Green Wall Plant Species List 12.09.2017
Species list from survey 12 September 2017
|Scientific Name||Common Name|
|Passer doemesticus||House sparrow|
|Parus major||Great tit|
|Columba livia||Wood pigeon|
|Celastrina argiolus||Holly blue|
|Vanessa cardui||Painted lady|
|Vanessa atalanta||Red admiral|
|Meles meles||Honey bee|
|Bombus lucorum||White tailed bumblebee|
|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|
|Berberis darwinii||Darwin’s barberry|
|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|
|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|
|Diplotaxis muralis||Annual wall rocket|
|Epilobium ciliatum||American willowherb|
|Epilobium hirsutum||Great willowherb|
|Erigeron glaucus||Seaside daisy|
|Erigeron karvinskianus||Mexican fleabane|
|Euonymus japonicus||Japanese spindle|
|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|
|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|
|Rumex crispus||Curled dock|
|Rumex obtusifolius||Broad-leaved dock|
|Sagina apetela||Annual pearlwort|
|Sagina procumbens||Procumbent pearlwort|
|Sedum acre||Biting stonecrop|
|Sedum album||English stonecrop|
|Senecio cineraria||Silver ragwort|
|Senecio viscosus||Stick ragwort|
|Silene alba||White campion|
|Sisybrium officinale||Hedge mustard|
|Sisybrium orientale||Oriental rocket|
|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|
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.
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.
So we like to think we have some great green roofs and walls here in Brighton. Well, we do – but there are lessons we can learn from others including the good citizens of Olympia WA, San Francisco CA and Portland OR.
I was lucky enough to visit this summer – here are some pictures that I hope act as inspiration. We could think, and act, so much bigger.
In the Government complex at Olympia, Washington, is a large area of green roof established on underground car parks. Food is grown for local food banks, tended by Government workers. Some lovely large squash ripening in the sun. There is a large area of wildflower mix (‘Ecolawn’) sown for insects and appearance, and is not watered. This has been established by the Department of Enterprise Services – basically the legal and procurement department!
Nearby, just outside the historic Capitol building, is an area of rain gardens that have been retrofitted to help manage storm water. They are very attractive, and feature seating to encourage enjoyment.
San Francisco Academy of Sciences has a living roof…that is so large it is a visitor attraction in its own right. Not a very good photo, so I’ve stolen one from the website and there are more here.
Also in San Francisco were these mini gardens, usually in shopping areas, that brought planting into very urban settings, softened the street scene and provided fun features and places to relax. A ‘public parklet’ indeed!
Portland, Oregon is well known for its approach to sustainable urban planning and design. The whole neighbourhood we stayed in (Alberta – much like Brighton in its hipsterness) has bioswales and other street level drainage built in. Basically permeable sidewalks (ownership extends to the kerb so householders plant up their strip of sidewalk however they like), roof drainage to ground level, street level swales and other features incorporated into street furniture and traffic calming. Drains are clearly marked to encourage people not to use them for disposing nasties. Much of the sidewalk strip was used to grow veggies and fruit – including a nearby pub that harvested salad crops from the street and boasted of it on its menu.
Here in Brighton, a number of partners including the Council and Environment Agency have launched a pilot ‘sustainable drainage’ scheme in Portslade. Great, but surely we could be bolder?
Why plant or protect green walls? What’s the point of them?
There have been good studies on this, focused on green walls for buildings. These have put pound (or dollar) signs on costs of establishment and maintenance, and benefits including:
- increased property value (akin to planting street trees)
- insulating buildings to reduce air conditioning costs in hot climates
- acoustic benefit where the covering is thick
- improving biodiversity
- improving air quality by trapping dust particles
- reducing the frequency of building facade maintenance
- air temperature reduction (urban ‘heat island’)
This study concluded that ‘direct green facades’ – ie climbing plants established onto a building surface – are the most sustainable green wall type, and have a very positive net present value.
There are lots of places in Brighton where this applies – around New England for example, Westergate, American Express, and so on.
For Madeira Drive, our most famous green wall, things are a little different. However, the benefits include:
- green space for relaxation in a community where the vast majority have no garden, balcony or other outside space
- a habitat for wildlife – 100 species of plants, birds, butterflies
- a national arboretum for Japanese spindle, and place to learn how to prune, coppice and manage it
- a place to study Victorian environmental engineering
- a green lung in an otherwise sparsely vegetated area – trapping dust
- a more attractive covering for a rendered cliff face that is so much better visually than sprayed concrete
- a protective coating for the cliff face – limiting damage and deterioration from wind, rain and cold.
- a place for volunteers to get active and health
- a backdrop for TV, film, photo shoots and show piece for Brighton & Hove.
It would be useful to do some economics on this – anyone out there with the requisite skills?
New group set up that will be helpful in raising awareness and interest in these historic, unique and threatened parts of our City.