Is this a very male question? Maybe, but I was struck by the claims from the National Grid that their new car park green wall is the largest in Europe! Is our very own Madeira Drive green wall bigger and better?
National Grid car park, Warwick
The National Grid boasts “a living wall of 1027 sq.m, making this Europe’s largest. The Living wall is home to over 97,000 plants of over 20 different species“. Undoubtedly impressive stuff.
Madeira Drive’s green wall by comparison – planted by the Victorians along the East Cliff in c1880 – was approximately 20 metres high and 1.2 kilometres long when at its very best in the 1980s. 24,000 m2 in extent.
Now, substantially diminished with gaps where plants have died and not been replaced, the wall is – and I’m guessing here – very approximately a quarter of its former extent. Still 6000 m2 though!
Building Green and the Ecology Consultancy surveys have found 100 species of plant on the wall.
So sorry, National Grid – it appears our green wall is bigger than yours after all!
Maybe we need to amend the flyer now to say ‘The oldest and longest green wall in Europe!’.
Lopping and chopping…Portslade Green Gym in action
Happy Green Gymers after a hard morning’s work at Madeira Drive green wall
Madeira Drive green wall and Duke’s Mound from the air, 1935
I was struck by this news release from Scotscape this week. A ‘hybrid’ green wall involving artificial and natural plants. The future of greening is plastic. Isn’t it?
I remember over 10 years ago, the Argus reporting about a planned green roof at Brighton University in terms of the roof being special because it was ‘painted green’. An innocent mistake, but are we really advocating artificial plants as part of our towns and cities? Ever felt the disappointment of sniffing a convincing flower arrangement on a restaurant table?
Let’s not pretend this is real greening. We need more, not less nature in our towns and cities. More plants, habitats and natural landscapes to deliver multiple benefits – to improve our mental wellbeing, for wildlife, rainwater management, urban cooling and even sniffing.
It’s not just walls that are at threat from artificial greenery. Research in 2011 revealed that 3,000 hectares (12 sq miles) of garden vegetation had been lost over eight years in the UK – which amounts to more than two Hyde Parks a year. Much, if not all, of this loss was down to decking, concreting over gardens, and the use of artificial grass – with consequences for nature and urban flood risk and the disposal of recyclable waste. Praise be to muddy knees, worms, blackbirds, and daisy chains (John Terry take note).
Scotscape, by the way, do do some great stuff – ivy screens, for example, and wire trellis for climbing plants. Shame about the plastic.
Madeira Terraces, home to the longest continuous ironwork structure in the UK and the longest and oldest green wall, are derelict.
‘People Power called upon to help save Madeira Terraces.‘
Brighton Council has launched a historic crowdfunding appeal to restore them, and regenerate this neglected part of the seafront as part of the ‘Lockwood Project’.
Leader Warren Morgan said:
“We will harness the city’s energy, creativity and affection for the Terraces to get the project off the ground. At the same time we will leave no stone unturned, seeking every possible avenue of funding from government and other sources.
“We want to inspire private and corporate investors to join us in saving a nationally-important structure on one of the world’s most recognisable seafronts by the much loved pebble beach. I’m not giving up on this. We’re determined to find a way of funding the restoration of the Terraces“.
Building Green will continue to push for the retention and enhancement of the Victorian ‘green wall’ – with 100 species of flowering plant it is a candidate local wildlife site, part of our historic seafront, and beautiful backdrop to the beach.
Find out more about the history of Madeira Drive on our new page here.
Portslade Green Gym have done another great job removing persistent weeds from the bed of the green wall at Madeira Drive.
This is important work, as it keeps the bed clear for other plants to grow and keeps ivy off the edges of the beds. It also keeps the footpath nice and clear for pedestrians, buggies etc – so why not take a stroll down the green wall and enjoy the emerging flowers this Spring.
The other good thing about the Green Gym folks, of course, is they are volunteers doing this for the love and for their own fitness. They’re a sprightly bunch!
Proud of the partnership Building Green, the Council, the Ecology Consultancy and Green Gym have formed. Photos courtesy of the Ecology Consultancy.
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.
Portslade Green Gym volunteers did another great job on the Madeira Drive green wall on 13 October.
Before and after pictures below. Another visit is planned for the new year.
New designs have been published for Madeira Drive – attempting to address the restoration of the Victorian arches whilst regenerating the seafront between the Pier and Marina.
This is the latest in a number of ideas – see Michael Doyle’s and the Council backed ideas of Sea Lanes and the ‘Lockwood Project’ that aims to retain and enhance the historic green wall.
Paul Nicholson (Chalk Architects) favours luxury flats and a park at the level of Marine Parade modelled on the New York High Line.
Clearly it would mean the end of sections, at least, of the historic planting and established biodiversity on the Madeira Drive Green Wall, but to remain open minded it may create additional valuable habitat and open space for people and wildlife.
Whether this will remain a fanciful sketch, or a vision fulfilled, remains to be seen. Building Green will want to be involved if this gets off the drawing table.