It’s been raining a lot in Brighton – so much so that we’ve had to cancel several workdays. We need the rain after the long hot summer but Brighton Greenway is now looking rather sodden.
However, last Sunday 13th November, a few of us did manage a good three hours’ work in mild and sunny Autumn weather. The Greenway looked at its best with the ochres, golds and reds of the Glory Vine (Vitis coignetiae).
We cleared litter, cut back overgrowth on the path and cleared the dead plants from the vegetable raised beds. Chard, borage and nasturtium have been left to grow happily. We’ve also planted some Fava bean seeds to act as a green manure. When they (fingers crossed) come up in the spring, we’ll just dig them into the soil and they should rot down, fertilising the soil for the next round of vegetables. We also sowed a few yellow rattle seeds. These are great for doing the opposite to the beans – depleting nutrients in the soil so that the thugs (nettles, thistles and dock) don’t take over and swamp wild flowers growing underneath. We’ll see what happens …
We also managed to clean the graffiti from our orientation signs, though a lot remains on the pillars, lamp-posts and walls.
Our next workday is planned for SUNDAY 4th December 10am to 1pm – weather permitting!
Just two hours in the hot sun, a rewarding time nonetheless. The small group of us picked litter with our long-handled grabbing tools. Useful when reaching into bramble or lifting out syringes, often complete with needle. Luckily we had a trained person who had her sharps box for safe storage of these dangerous items – Lynsey, one of the Council Rangers. Drug-taking is one of the unintended consequences of creating a quiet, green space complete with secluded corners. Five or six sacks of bottles, cans and plastic food packaging collected, and one of the city’s rental cycles found at the north end, vandalised and abandoned (later reported to one of the schemes mechanics working one a bike on the Lewes Rd).
It was probably ridden here from one of the road access points further south, since it could not have been pushed up the cycle rolling track beside the steps, as it is unusable since a new handrail was placed between the steps and the rolling surface!!
A good example of left hand being unaware of plans of the right hand!
Tagging is an ongoing issue (all over the city, not just here). Not just the wall, but concrete seats and the litter bin attracts this sort of expensive vandalism.
All along the east side there are brick columns which once supported a factory floor spanning the whole Greenway – part of the long-gone locomotive building and maintenance workshops. Some columns support lots of wildlife-valuable ivy,
others display arty exaggerated railway worker’s equipment. One of our number spent time clearing the bramble and nettles away from the base of one of these latter columns to better display the art – but will it encourage more tagging? Wait and see.
In the early days of the Greenway it was decided to install steel wires on the west side area of blind brick arches, then plant a non-native vigorous climber to go up them. Vandals soon removed the wires, and now the vine swamps native hawthorn and other shrubs.
Between Boston Street and Stroudley Road the path runs beside a very overgrown planting bed. Very overgrown because a rich topsoil was deposited in the constructed concrete trough – it should have been nutrient-poor medium to encourage grassland wildflowers to dominate. We hope that chalk will be made available to replace or at least cover this soil, meanwhile all we can do is cut back the rampant nettles when they start to lean across the footway. We had planned to dig out the nettles and stuff, but digging has been forbidden because there may be services in the soil. Strange that was not an issue when the Council rotovated the ground or when we had permission to plant a series of shrub hedges at intervals. Perhaps all will become clear in due course.
To end on a more positive note – on the more formal southern part of the Greenway there are some rock filled gabions which offer habitat for lizards, slowworms and many insect species. I cannot say whether they are well used, but they have potential. With a warming climate larger European lizards may find their way here – rather like the ones to be seen in Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Gabions of rock are well established homes for these big and beautiful beasts there.
We’ve stuttered along a bit these last few months with several cancelled workdays. Friends of Brighton Greenway is still active, we’re just working out how to organise ourselves best to promote and develop this sometimes unloved, but valuable, green space right in the centre of urban Brighton.
Meanwhile, the wildflowers on the Greenway have come up, and the vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in the raised beds are doing well. Thanks to support from our St Peter’s-North Laine Councillors, Pete West and Sue Shanks, we’ve been able to add another raised bed to our edible growing area. Thanks too to the Wood Store who constructed the bed and helped install it.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Friends of Brighton Greenway, do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be posting details in due course of meetings and workdays.
We were four stalwarts … We met on Sunday 30th January 2022 to try to get things going again. There was a lot of litter, graffiti is now the dominant theme on the west wall, and quite a few trees and shrubs have got rather overgrown. There was only so much we could tackle but we made a start.
Some of the area around the listed iron bridge over New England Road was cleared of rubbish and overgrowth. We’ve seen some lovely wildflowers growing up in this area, including a grass vetchling lathyrus nissolia. We found some snowdrops growing among the leaves and there’s quite a bit of evidence of wildflowers coming back.
We also spent some time trying to clear overgrown bushes around the central seating area, cutting back the Salix purpurea which had become very overgrown, and also a small elm tree which has grown up there. The area looks very bare but the sight lines along the Greenway are slightly improved. We also weeded around the edge of the area, pulling up grass where it had encroached over the path.
What is extraordinary is that there is little evidence of the planting we’ve done nearby the benches: shrubs such as lavender and rosemary, and wildflowers including red campion, ox-eye daisies and salvias. The area has been much trampled on, there’s a lot of graffiti there and there was a lot of litter. We will just have to see whether the wildflowers at least come back … They often do.
I’ve just taken a look at Brighton and Hove City Council’s draft Biodiversity and Nature Conservation supplementary planning document. It’s good to know that in both 2013 and 2019, the area around Brighton Station including Brighton Greenway has been confirmed as a local wildlife site or LWS.
What is now Brighton Greenway was originally made a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) back in 1992, confirmed in 1995. The LWS designation is non-statutory but these sites are designated locally as being important for nature conservation and biodiversity.
It is expected that these sites will be “identified, mapped and safeguarded through the Local Plan system” acknowledging “the role they play as part of wider ecological networks”.
Over the years, we’ve tried to keep some record of the range of wildflowers and insects that inhabit the Greenway. We’ll be going back to that this year to update records and see if things have changed markedly.
This is how Brighton Greenway looked in November 2021 with abundant foliage and lovely Autumn colour. It’s still there; and Friends of Brighton Greenway is still here.
We were not able to meet much in the second part of 2021, though we did manage a few get-togethers in the early summer. Now in 2022, we trying to get going again … and we need all the volunteer energy out there to help look after this interesting space.
We need to keep this pedestrian pathway open and attractive for people – a place in the busy built-up city where people can walk without any traffic. It’s also the most urban of Brighton’s Local Wildlife Spaces. As we all become a little more aware about the importance of green spaces both for us and for supporting our local biodiversity, we need to get out there with renewed vigour.
We’re hoping to organise our first work day at the end of January but will post exact details here as soon as possible. If you’d like to get involved, do contact us on email@example.com
We cannot yet meet as a group to work on Brighton Greenway but you can come and contribute to a lovely project enlivening the area. On Saturday October 10th and Saturday October 17th in hourly slots between 11am and 2pm, there are plans to paint a mural on the New England bridge. We were involved in the discussions for this. Now the designers are calling on people to help paint the design, based on photographs of wildflowers.
So this can be CoVid-secure, you’ll need to book in for an hour slot on the eventbrite page. Everything you need to know is explained there. Do come along to add some colour and excitement to this unloved area!
All group activities have been cancelled as a result of the CoVid19 crisis and everybody in the UK has been advised to stay at home in order to try reduce the incidence of this highly contagious and potentially fatal virus..We shan’t be meeting as a group on April 5th.
Flowers and plants of course will be continuing to do their thing, and we hope the wildflowers will be springing up along Brighton Greenway.
Vegetable and herb seeds are also germinating, and seedlings are growing on, ready – hopefully – for planting in due course in the raised beds that the Greenway edible growing group have constructed.
We will let you know when we can start meeting again … keep safe!
There were plenty of bees up on the dandelions on Brighton Greenway at our last work day on 1st March. Red campion and centaurea plants were growing strongly. But even if the forecast bad weather (Storm Jorge) didn’t really materialise, it didn’t really feel like spring …
But is it in fact spring already? This year, it has been relatively warm but very, very damp and windy. There are daffodils on Brighton Greenway and the snowdrops are already over. I had always assumed ‘spring’ started on 1st March, but more properly, it should be counted from the Spring Equinox (night of 20th March).
Our next work day will be the real ‘spring’ one: on SUNDAY 5th April 12 midday – 3pm. Come along and see what’s growing then!
Last Sunday, along with litter-picking and cutting back Rubus cockburnianus and Buddleja up on Brighton Greenway, we moved bricks … and compost, several pallets and a wooden raised bed.
The Edible Growing group of Friends of Brighton Greenway is creating a small circle of raised beds by the central seating area for growing vegetables and fruit. After last year’s successful experiment, we’re installing five more raised beds to allow for a wider range of produce to be grown. The plan is to look at growing: courgettes, kale, rainbow chard, runner beans, strawberries, raspberries, herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, mint, parsley and basil) and possibly carrots. Do get in touch if you’d like to get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org