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
Happy green roofers – with Building Green and Organic Roofs
Building Green and Organic Roofs hosted another crew of enthusiastic eco warriors in May, on the green roof training course we run with Brighton Permaculture Trust.
We had talks, project consultancy, green roofed bird house building, and tours of Madeira Drive historic green wall, Crew Club wildflower green roof and Level Cafe green roof in the centre of town.
Here are some pictures – they speak for themselves!
We are planning something even bigger and better next time, so watch this space.
Talks at Organic Roofs HQ
Making bird houses with green roofs, to understand hands on the components of green roofing
Completed bird houses and proud people!
Learning about green roofs in the flesh – the good and the less good
Learning about green walls – Madeira Drive’s historic green wall
Brighton & Hove cliffs are home to hoary stock – Matthiola incana – a nationally scarce plant that likes warm south facing coasts. I love the fact that another common name for the plant is ‘hopes‘.
Whilst there is some debate about its ancestry – is it native, but what does that mean anyway? – it is listed in the citation for the Brighton to Newhaven Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England listed this SSSI in 2014 as ‘unfavourable recovering’ – it’s of variable quality no doubt but the section I explored as far as Roedean from the marina was very eutrophic (thanks, dog owners) and devoid of much particular diversity on first glance…except for the very cliff edge where I spied a few small patches closer to chalk grassland and even a few lone orchids.
Hoary stock on the cliffs above Brighton Marina – part of the Brighton to Newhaven Site of Special Scientific Interest
A run along there recently shows it in its purple and white forms – and even a combination variegated form I hadn’t seen before (just visible on the right hand side of this photo)!
It was good to see large hoary stock plants along parts of the Madeira Drive green wall as well – where it is one of 100 species that have been recorded in this historic green wall wildlife site.
Hoary stock at Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton
Richard Mabey, in his Flora Britannica, says hoary stock:
“…is possibly a rare native of the southern chalk cliffs, now probably confined to Sussex and Isle of Wight, and is the parent of the garden stocks. In the wild it has short sprays of large, deep violet flowers [or white, or a combination!] with a clove-like fragrance, which produce seed-pods often more than four inches long. It was developed into the strain of ‘Brompton stocks’ in the eighteenth century at the Brompton Road nursery in London”.
By the way, it especially smells of cloves at night – but be careful on the cliff tops if you’re going to take a sniff! Other names it is known by include:
Local artist Vincenzo Donlini has created some atmospheric images of Madeira Drive. Featuring the terraces, the beach and the green wall, they are full of light, colour and texture. Visit his website.
These paintings were made on site in 2015 – not from photos – so tell of a time before ‘dereliction’. Postcards etc are available from the website.
Brighton & Hove Building Green have published a history of ‘Maddy’ – our beloved seafront road in East Brighton which is home to the oldest and longest green wall in the UK.
It’s a story of Victorian invention, bringing together technology, engineering, the environment and health and enjoyment.
Visit the Madeira Drive page to find out more.
Hello Sailor! Promenading the ‘famous Madeira Terrace on Madeira Drive
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.
Portslade Green Gym volunteers will be at the Madeira Drive green wall again this week, working up a sweat whilst maintaining our natural heritage.
Madeira Drive Green wall below Paston Place, 10 October 2016
They will be tidying up the vegetation along the footpath, helping to maintain the biodiversity of the area whilst keeping things shipshape for pedestrians.
Why not pop along during the morning of 13 October 2016.
Madeira Drive green wall and Duke’s Mound from the air, 1935
Building Green is working with the Council and volunteers to protect this Victorian green wall – planted c1850 – and in time restore it along its length. It is the longest of its kind in the UK, and was planned alongside the unique listed Victorian ironwork of Madeira Terrace, the Shelter Hall, and the Volks Electric Railway.
Find out more here – more coming soon.