Beautiful berries – this winter the green wall at Madeira Drive bears more fruit than average. Here are six interesting facts about this amazing plant

Beautiful berries – this winter the green wall at Madeira Drive bears more fruit than average. Here are six interesting facts about this amazing plant

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.

  1. Seeds are propogated by birds
  2. It depends on bees, flies and hoverflies to pollinate the flowers
  3. It is very tolerant of salty conditions, and a wide range of soil types
  4. Roots and stems yield up to 7% gutta-percha, a non-elastic rubber used as an electrical insulator and in making plastics
  5. Decoctions from the bark are considered to be tonic, anti-rheumatic, anhidoritic and diuretic. Chinese women use the leaves to aid difficult childbirths
  6. 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.
Japanese spindle tree in fruit against wall

Sources: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/23206#tosummaryOfInvasiveness

Update from Building Green

Update from Building Green

The following update was published today in the Brighton & Hove Green Spaces Forum winter newsletter.

BUILDING GREEN
Protecting the oldest, longest ‘green wall’ in the UK – Building Green needs advice and input. Building Green have been working with the Council, Portslade Green Gym and others for several years to bring Madeira Drive Green Wall the recognition it deserves. Now designated a Local Wildlife Site – the first of its kind in the UK – the green wall is home to over 100 species of flowering plant and is the oldest and longest green wall in the country, if not Europe.

Planted in 1872, the green wall originally covered over a mile of Brighton East Cliff below Kemp Town. Parts of the site have been lost and damaged over the years, but extensive stretches remain. Building Green have been leading its restoration – particularly at the Duke’s Mound end of Madeira Drive – and have a vision to protect, enhance and restore the green wall to its former extent.

The green wall pre-dates Madeira Terrace – the Grade II* structure which is the focus of work to restore and regenerate the East Brighton seafront. Building Green represent the Natural Environment on a stakeholder panel that was established by the Council to advise on this work, which is on track to begin with the restoration of 30 arches of the Terrace this autumn.

Building Green welcomes volunteers, who can get in touch through our website at https://building-green.org.uk/contact-us/ .

We also welcome input from Green Spaces Forum members on the restoration plans for Madeira Terrace – particularly in terms of the environmental components of the seafront and wider built and natural heritage.

Download the winter newsletter below.

Tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall at this year’s Green Architecture Sessions – come learn about this unique and threatened place at the heart of Brighton & Hove

Tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall at this year’s Green Architecture Sessions – come learn about this unique and threatened place at the heart of Brighton & Hove

Green Architecture Sessions is the new ‘Green Architecture Day’ by Brighton Permaculture Trust.

11-1145 am, Saturday 3 October there will be a tour of Madeira Drive Green Wall by Building Green Founder James Farrell.

There are a number of great talks by inspiring speakers – so book your slot here.

Green Architecture Sessions 2020

Volunteering cancelled at Madeira Drive green wall

Volunteering cancelled at Madeira Drive green wall

Unfortunately green wall maintenance has been stopped again, as Covid-19 restrictions continue.

The council don’t allow volunteers over 70 years old to work at present, and of course as of today not in groups over 6. Our mighty Green Gym guys and gals fail on both counts…we hope they are keeping active and connected to each other in other ways.

It’s a tough decision. Parts of the green wall are now growing onto the pavement, so Building Green has asked the council to organise some cutting back.

We look forward to restrictions lifting and work starting up again as soon as possible.

Unlocking care for the Madeira Drive Green Wall

Unlocking care for the Madeira Drive Green Wall

Those intrepid volunteers from Green Gym are going to be back in action this month, caring for the precious planting along Duke’s Mound.

Part of the Maderia Drive Green Wall, they cut back red valerian, ivy and other plants which can crowd out more sensitive vegetation, and generally do a sterling job of making the area look great. They have fun whilst they do it too!

Thursday 17 September, 10am, Duke’s Mound

They will take all necessary Covid-19 precautions as they do it, alongside their usual attention to health, safety and wellbeing.

Madeira Terrace – restoration planning begins

Madeira Terrace – restoration planning begins

Building Green Chair James Farrell represents natural heritage on the Madeira Terrace Stakeholder Advisory Panel. 

Any readers with an interest in environment, and the protection and enhancement of the Madeira Drive Green Wall, can feed ideas into James by contacting us.

Recent activity has included:

  • Appointing a design team, including famous architects Purcell Architecture
  • Sub-contractors Landscape Projects Ltd. developing plans for landscaping including the protection of the Green Wall
  • Scoping advice for contractors to avoid damage to the green wall during the period before restoration, and during any future work
  • Exploring the use of car parking costs for Madeira Terrace restoration

Meetings are monthly, if you have comments or concerns do send them in.

Painting by Vincenzo Donlini.

Oscar Wilde and the green wall

Oscar Wilde and the green wall

What has Oscar Wilde got to do with the Madeira Drive green wall?

Bear with. Madeira Road was opened in 1870, forming a new promenade along the bottom of East Cliff, and connecting people from the wealthy Brighton and Kemp Town with the seaside. Our new theory is that it was named ‘Madeira’ after the island’s greenery.

One man who did much to popularise Madeira as the ‘garden isle’ was Sir William Wilde…you guessed it…father of Oscar. An excellent botanist, he wrote of the vines and terraced gardens, praising the ‘hothouse of the open air’ that he grew to know on his visits from the late 1830s. Madeira became popular with Victorian visitors through the 19th Century for much the same reasons that Brighton did – for the health giving properties of seaside living and recreation, as well as its luxuriant gardens.

madeira-cliff_2517649a

Madeira Drive green wall was planted in 1872, and we expect that it was always part of the vision of for Madeira Road to establish vegetation to soften the hard cliff and new road, and encourage people to spend time there.

brighton seafront 1872 chain pier cliff planting people James Gray collection

A later photograph, probably about 1872/1873. By now, the Aquarium had been built, on the site of the esplanade, and the few hesitant steps towards the construction of Madeira Drive had commenced. Note the long line of sapling trees and the ladies’ bathing machines.
Both are, of course, recent copies of old stereoscopic photographs.

So Madeira Drive Green Wall is extra well named…our little slice of the ‘garden isle’ on the Sussex coast.

And what of Oscar? A frequent Brighton visitor, and sometime Worthing resident, Oscar lectured in the Pavilion in 1884, avoided long walks, and crashed his cart into the railings of Regency Square in 1894. I don’t know that he ever saw the newly established saplings of Japanese Spindle of Madeira Road…but I hope that he did.


With thanks to Derek Wright for the prompt to research this piece.

Old photograph proves planting date for Madeira Drive green wall

Old photograph proves planting date for Madeira Drive green wall

For some years we have been digging through archives to find the planting date for the Japanese Spindle at Madeira Drive…part of the oldest, longest green wall in the UK.

We have now uncovered this 1872-3 photograph from the James Gray collection that clearly shows the plants at the bottom of the East Cliff – as well as the new hedge being carefully established on the promenade. Benches too – public realm with nature at its heart, 148 years ago.

What a fantastic image – in stereo no less! – and great to have this photographic proof at last.

jg_05_016.jpg

“A later photograph, probably about 1872/1873. By now, the Aquarium had been built, on the site of the esplanade, and the few hesitant steps towards the construction of Madeira Drive had commenced. Note the long line of sapling trees and the ladies’ bathing machines.
Both are, of course, recent copies of old stereoscopic photographs.”
Image Reference: JG_05_016.tif
Date: 1872-1873
Image Details: Copy
Size of Original: 188×101
Place: Brighton
Additional Information©Philippe Garner

Good news – Madeira Terrace regraded to II*

Good news – Madeira Terrace regraded to II*

Heritage England have regraded Madeira Terrace as a II* structure.

The nerds amongst you will enjoy reading the citation. A few headlines for others:

  • This designation is deserved by ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’
  • There is no other building like it in the English historic record (closest is a Victorian pier)I
  • It’s ‘monolithic’ form is considered very rare of possibly uniqueI
  • It is thought to be the longest cast iron structure in England and possibly the world.

The Madeira Drive green wall gets a special mention:

“Earlier, between 1830 and 1833, the natural East Cliff at Brighton was made good by the application of a concrete covering, and was then planted up to achieve a green wall which is now believed to be the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe, with over 100 species of flowering plants recorded.”

Now to save it…

(Painting by Vincent Donlin)