Coming soon…a cultural and environmental history of Brighton’s seafront road, Madeira Drive

Building Green is very interested in Madeira Drive – ‘Maddy’ – the seafront along East Brighton.

Home to unique Victorian engineering, major public events and a great beach, it’s also the greenest part of the seafront in Brighton & Hove, and is home to rare ‘vegetated shingle’ habitat and the longest, oldest green wall in the country.

For that reason we think it’s worth special attention, and we will soon post a special page dedicated to this miracle mile (and a bit).

In the meantime, here are some more old photos along Madeira Drive…showing the historic development of the seafront, the planting, the tearooms and lift, and the elevated ‘Madeira Terrace’.

Looking east – the Chain Pier, bathing machines and Victorian traffic. You can clearly see planting established on the cliff face. Dated 1890 but Shelter Hall, built 1890, not visible so this is probably earlier

Looking west towards the Chain Pier, with the railway laid out. Japanese spindle trees look around 12 feet tall here. 1883? Lawns were laid out in 1884 and are not visible here. Railway established 1883

The Aquarium, Brighton 1889 – 1896, again with the Chain Pier in the distance and plants well established on the East Cliff. Part of the Gravelroots UK Vintage Trail

 

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Madeira Lift showing the lawns in front and the planting climbing behind the terraces.

 

Planting along the East cliff – showing the Concorde tearooms but the rest of the elevated walkway not yet built. Less shingle, and loads more sand and reef at low tide. 1890

St Mary's Hall and Kemptown 1926 showing the planting on Madeira Drive and Duke's Mound. Britain from above. Copyright Historic England

St Mary’s Hall and Kemptown 1926 showing the planting on Madeira Drive and Duke’s Mound. Pre-Carlton Hill and Whitehawk

Duke's mound terrace, Brighton

Early planting on the front of Sussex Square, Duke’s Mound – the walls recently cleared and replanted by the Council. After the enclosed Esplanade was opened to the public in 1952

Madeira terraces, Kemp town with cyclist

Madeira terraces, Kemp town with cyclist. ‘The famous sheltered walk’

Great work(out!) by the Green Gym at Madeira Drive green wall today

Great work(out!) by the Green Gym at Madeira Drive green wall today

The Portslade Green Gym were in action again today, flexing their muscles to improve the health and appearance of the vegetation growing at Madeira Drive green wall.

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Councillor Gill Mitchell greets the Portslade Green Gym volunteers at Madeira Drive green wall. With Brighton & Hove Building Green.

They worked to help protect the biodiversity of the wall, make sure plants weren’t in the way of pedestrians, and have fun and get fit doing it!

Ivy, dock and thistles were targets, and the results are plain to see. A big ‘thank you’ from Building Green for everyone involved.

Councillor Gill Mitchell came by to see what we were doing as well, and was pleased to see the community improving an important local green space.

Madeira Drive green wall was established by the Victorians in the early 1800s, and is the longest and oldest in the country. 100 species of plant have been recorded growing here, and it is a candidate Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in the city plan.

Our thanks to the Council, Portslade Green Gym and the Ecology Consultancy. I’m sure Green Gym will be back again in future!

Now booking – DIY green roofs training weekend, 29-30 October

We are now taking bookings for our DIY Green Roof weekend this October.

Based at Organic Roofs HQ on the south coast near Brighton, and involving site visits to some superb green roofs and living walls, the course is run by experts from Brighton & Hove Building Green and Organic Roofs, and administered by Brighton Permaculture Trust.

More information here.

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Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

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Happy green roofers with their green roofed bird boxes

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Building Green DIY Green Roof workshop crew hearing about the special green wall at Madeira Drive, Brighton

The lopping and chopping continues! Green Gym party at Madeira Drive Green Wall

Next Thursday 5 May, Portslade Green Gym’s wonderful team of energetic volunteers will be sprucing up the Victorian green wall at Madeira Drive.

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Armed with ‘loppers and choppers’ they will be clearing weeds and rubbish to improve biodiversity and tidy up this part of the seafront.

The work is organised by Brighton & Hove Building Green, and is supported by the Council.

 

 

 

–          Including a strong environmental focus in local policy development, especially BHCC’s City Plan Part 2 and the Open Spaces Strategy

Green gym did a great job down at Madeira Drive green wall

15 volunteers from Portslade Green Gym have given the foliage at the Madeira Drive green wall a makeover. They cleared huge piles of weeds and ivy that were smothering the bed, getting onto the pavement, and crowding out the more attractive wild plants. Over 100 species of plant have been found at the Madeira Drive green wall. The Green Gym were supervised by Building Green member The Ecology Consultancy.

The Council cleared away the green waste the same day, and this end of the green wall is looking much smarter.

Building Green will be seeding the bed to encourage more wild flowers. We will also be working with the Council to establish new Japanese spindle planting in front of the freshly concreted stretch.

The rest of the Victorian green wall is currently out of bounds due to the instability of the antique ironwork of Madeira Terrace.

 

New Madeira Terraces design ideas

Michael Doyle Town Planning have shared this new design for Madeira Drive with the Council and Building Green.

Maderia Terrace with light weight timber deck and cherry picker for green wall maintenance

Maderia Terrace with light weight timber deck and cherry picker for green wall maintenance

It shows how a timber upper level would allow light to filter through. It’s a more lightweight solution. Michael has also shown a cherry picker on the upper level, which would allow easy maintenance of the green wall.

The green wall covers and protects large areas of the cliff and saves money in the expensive application of new concrete render. However, it does need maintenance – which could be carried out by volunteers as well as the Council.

Michael’s earlier designs also show commercial pods which could be slotted under the terrace in future, enabling new, much-needed, business and revenue to be generated in this area of the beach front.

Commercial units coujld be established under the Madeira Terrace

Commercial units coujld be established under the Madeira Terrace

For more of Michael’s designs see this previous post.

Inspiration – Bruno Stagno

Bruno Stagno is an architect from Costa Rica who designs for the tropics.

The use of climbing plants for bio-shading (creating cooler buildings and outdoor spaces) is known in this country too – but these are stunning examples.

He said he enjoys living “in close contact with the exterior environment and enjoy the sensation of openness and connection to nature this brings.”

JYR Building. Climbing plants on frames

Tribu office pergola. Solar shading using climbing plants and frames