Those amazing folk from Portslade Green Gym were at Madeira Drive for the first of this year’s visits to the green wall. They were last due on 5 March 2020, and we all know why that didn’t happen!
Doing their usual terrific work today, to cut back growth, ensuring the maintenance of the wildlife on the site, and protection of the historic Japanese spindle plants.
There were also good signs that the Building Green Babies – young spindle plants we grew from cuttings on site – are growing up.
One of the volunteers was saying how important this work is – not just from a wildlife point of view, but for the mental health of the team. Many of the volunteers are older, and live alone – being outdoors with their friends, doing something physical, is a joy – and something sorely missed during lockdown.
Our thanks to the Council team for cutting back along the path edge this week, to keep the pavement clear for pedestrians.
Next volunteer work day is 18 November. Come and say hello, or lend a hand.
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.
This year has been particularly good for Japanese spindle berries at the Madeira Drive green wall. Who knows why?
While we ponder that, here are some facts about this amazing plant.
Seeds are propogated by birds
It depends on bees, flies and hoverflies to pollinate the flowers
It is very tolerant of salty conditions, and a wide range of soil types
Roots and stems yield up to 7% gutta-percha, a non-elastic rubber used as an electrical insulator and in making plastics
Decoctions from the bark are considered to be tonic, anti-rheumatic, anhidoritic and diuretic. Chinese women use the leaves to aid difficult childbirths
It is host to a wide variety of invertebrates including Unaspis euonymi, a sap-sucking ‘scale’ insect; and dusty grey/black vine weevils, Otiorhynchus sulcatus, which can take notched nibbles out of leaf edges.
“On Saturday 23rd November I took 60 cuttings from the Japanese Spindle on Madeira Drive – the green wall. I took the cuttings from along the green wall, from the end of the arches and up Duke’s Mound. I took from the new growth, the lighter greener leaves. With the help and expertise of family (Mom) 60 cuttings are now planted and will hopefully grow inside over winter. Like the other cuttings James has nurtured and that are now planted in, these will I hope eventually add to the green wall, filling it out and helping it to grow the whole way along.
The cuttings are varied in length, and taken from different parts of the green wall, to see if some take better than others. Each of the stems has been cut at an angle, soaked in water overnight and dipped in organic rooting gel, and planted into deep compost pots. The top of the soil has been covered in course grit to keep moisture in and help keep the soil compacted. They are all inside a light conservatory that’s insulated and that is heated. I’ll let you know how they get on and hopefully we can plant them in next year sometime.”
Today volunteers with Building Green planted 45 Japanese Spindle plants to fill the gaps in the green wall at Madeira Drive, Brighton & Hove.
Some of the volunteers at work
Originally established in 1872 this green wall is the oldest and longest of its kind in the UK. The plants were grown on from cuttings taken from the site and should one day reach as high as their 20m tall, 150 year old neighbours!
The time has come to plant some new Japanese spindle at Madeira Drive green wall!
We need people to come and help on Sunday 12 May at 11am, Duke’s Mound(click for a map).
We will be planting these cuttings to fill in gaps in the green wall that runs up the hill from the eastern end of Madeira Terrace opposite Banjo groyne.
Japanese spindle cuttings ready to be planted
No special skills required,. Bring spades, forks and gloves if you can – if not just bring a smile! Feel free to contact us to let us know if you are coming.
This is part of achieving Building Green’s vision for a fully restored green wall, thriving in wildlife, and a major contribution to the beauty of the seafront. The oldest, longest green wall in the UK.
Approximately 100 years separates these photos, showing Madeira Drive, the Volks railway, Kemp Town and the Madeira Drive green wall