Madeira Drive green wall update and what needs to be done next

Madeira Drive green wall update and what needs to be done next

The news of the cutting of the green wall has spread far and wide.

There have been multiple stories on The Argus, Brighton & Hove Independent, More Radio and BBC Sussex.

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.
News on Madeira Drive green wall – recent loss, new planting and a change of scope

News on Madeira Drive green wall – recent loss, new planting and a change of scope

A few recent happenings on Madeira Drive Green Wall – our natural backdrop to the eastern seafront.

1 – Recent loss of historic section of green wall

Building Green was saddened by recent action on 12 March to cut down a section of historic green wall next to the Volks workshop. Originally planted in 1872, approximately 6-8 Japanese spindle plants were cut, along with a large fig tree that was popular with local people. There was no prior notice or communication with Building Green.

This section of wall is part of the recently declared Local Wildlife Site – the only one of its kind in the UK.

The Council are commissioning a report into what happened, but the work is believed to have been a miscommunication relating to the creation of the new cycleway along Madeira Drive.

Building Green are hoping the spindle will grow back – our trials of copping these plants elsewhere along the green wall shows that they can regenerate, so we remain optimistic.

2 – Joining up the whole green wall with the MT30 project

Building Green is looking to prevent further miscommunication and ensure that the entire historic length of the green wall is considered as part of the regeneration of Madeira Drive.

As such we were pleased to have agreement from the Madeira Terraces MT30 project that the full length of green wall – east to the top of Duke’s Mound – will be included in the MT30 project.

3 – New planting at Duke’s Mound

Building Green has been unable to conduct any volunteer maintenance of the Duke’s Mound stretch of green wall during the pandemic.

However, Building Green’s Treasurer & Son have been quietly growing cuttings of Japanese spindle and will be planting these out in a recently re-surfaced section of the East cliff.

We are proud to see this volunteer action underway – as part of restoring the original extent of the green wall.

Clearing a recently resurfaced section of green wall ready for planting Japanese spindle

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)

New community container in place for Madeira Terrace pilot restoration

Great to see the green wall featuring alongside the precious Madeira Terrace in the artwork on the new community container.

The container contains an office and other facilities for local community groups to use. Building Green will be!

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Artwork features Japanese Spindle – the main feature of the Madeira Drive Green Wall, these plants are now almost 150 years old. It also features hoary stock – one of the rarest native plants that has been found along the green wall. Hoary stock has another name…’Hopes’. Seems apt!

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Unfortunately we couldn’t raise the funds to green the container itself…a green roof, or some living walls would have been even better. To see what’s possible with a shipping container, go here and here.

Restoration continues at oldest, longest green wall in the UK

Volunteers from the local community have been helping dig holes ready for more tree planting this week on Madeira Drive – the location of the oldest, longest green wall in the UK.

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The project is saving some 40 year old ‘Japanese spindle’ plants, and giving them a new home, as part of a wider vision to restore the green wall to its former glory. The plants have been coppiced – cut back hard – but should grow and one day could be as tall as their 140+ year old neighbours!

Volunteers included the first vegan design certified interior designers Materialise Interiors.

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Volunteers save plants for country’s oldest ‘green’ wall

Filming/photo opportunities at Madeira Terrace green wall: Sunday, 30 September, 11am or Wednesday, 3 October, between 12 noon and 2pm. Please let Julie Harris Julie.harris@brighton-hove.gov.uk  and James Farrell know if you are interested in coming along.

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Happy Green Gymers after a hard morning’s work at Madeira Drive green wall

Work will begin next week to carefully transplant a group of Japanese spindle which has been growing in containers above Concorde 2 on Madeira Terrace for more than 35 years.

When they heard plants needed to be moved to enable repairs to the building, local community organisation Building Green got in touch offering to save the plants.

Japanese Spindle has been happily growing along Madeira Drive since the Victorians established a ‘green wall’ in the late 19th Century. It’s the oldest and longest of its kind in the country, and was designed to enhance the famous ironwork of Madeira Terrace.

James Farrell, founder of Building Green, said “We are working with the council to rescue some old Japanese spindle plants that need to be removed as part of structural improvement to the Concorde 2. The plants are a special feature of the Madeira Drive green wall, a ‘vertical garden’ which was established by the Victorians to enhance the seafront and Madeira Terrace.

“The green wall now contains more than 100 species of flowering plants, and is the longest and oldest of its kind in the country. The plants will be safely moved to a new home along the green wall at Duke’s Mound.”

Building Green has trialled coppicing (safely cutting from the base where the plants will regrow) on sections of the green wall and this technique will be used to transplant the spindles.

Councillor Alan Robins, lead member for tourism, development and culture, said: “We really appreciate the conservation being done by all the partners on this unique green wall. Thanks to them, as part of the work we are doing to maintain Concorde 2, the spindles will find a new home and won’t be lost. At 20 metres high and 1.2km long, the green wall is quite a feature and hosts an incredible diversity of plants and wildlife which is perhaps surprising in this exposed location.”

Volunteers from Building Green have been working with the council, Portslade Green Gym and other partners for several years to manage and restore this unique and important natural heritage.

It is thought the spindles being moved date back to the 1980s when they were planted in concrete troughs on the upper level of Madeira Terrace to improve the environment for visitors. The majority of spindle along the green wall is more than 140 years old and grows from ground level up and behind the walkway of the Terrace. It has glossy leaves and produces pink and orange berries.

Save Madeira Terraces – £160k raised so far, £270k to go!

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Have you donated yet to the ‘Save Madeira Terrace’ campaign?

The campaign has now raised over £160,000 from more than 700 local people and businesses who are committed to preserving its future – as well as celebrating its past. Minimum donation is £2. Please spread the word and share this link: Spacehive – Save Madeira Terrace

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Save Madeira Terrace!

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Help us restore our iconic arches to their former glory! We will save this historical structure from falling into disrepair, in the process creating a new lively quarter for Brighton.

Save Madeira Terrace  is a crowdfunding campaign launched on 26 June and running until  30 Nov 2017 by which time it needs to raise £432,598.

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Brighton & Hove Building Green is a partner in this project, as the terraces sit hand in glove with Europe’s longest, oldest green wall.

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The future of Maderia Drive – it’s in all our hands…and an important clue

Building Green attended an important first meeting about the future of Madeira Drive recently.

The Council hosted the meeting, and invitees included a number of community organisations like ours, local businesses, interested residents and others. There were some big names in the room, which bodes well for the level of interest in regenerating the neglected East Brighton seafront.

Building Green spoke about the value and importance of the Madeira Drive Green Wall, which contributes vital natural heritage alongside the built heritage of the seafront. We will be offering the expertise the support of our volunteers to ensure the green wall is protected and enhanced as part of any future development.

The meeting discussed the new crowdfunding appeal – to be launched soon – plans and suggestions for future development, and ‘meanwhile’ uses to bring much needed life, recreation and business activity to Madeira Drive.

On our way to the meeting, we stopped off at the Fishing Museum and found a woodcut that offers an important clue to the founding of the green wall. For some time, Building Green has been looking for evidence of when the wall was first planted (with Japanese Spindle). Our hunch was that it was earlier than 1880, though the only documentary evidence points to 1882 (JB Evison 1969 ‘Gardening by the sea’). Well, I know you’re holding your breath, so…the woodcut print was published in 1872 and seems to show evenly spaced shrubs planted along the footing of the cliff. How exciting!

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For a full history of our wonderful Madeira Drive, visit our unique page.