CoVid19 crisis – do stay at home!

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!

 

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Is it spring? By April 5th it will be …

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!

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The Edible Growing project

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: fobrightongreenway@outlook.com

 

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Storms Chiara, Dennis … Jorge and we’re only just in March

We will be going ahead with our work session this morning SUNDAY 1st MARCH 12.30-2.30: there will be the usual litter picking, cutting back, clearing as necessary and helping move one of the edible growing raised beds from the more sensitive easterly area.

If you join us, please do equip yourselves to deal with unpredictable weather, and as usual, gardening gloves and solid footwear. We are likely to finish early, given potentially cold, windy and wet conditions, though at the moment, it’s bright and clear.

The weather this last autumn and winter has been particularly tiresome. Storm Jorge is now passing over the UK, after storms Chiara (and Dennis?) put paid to our last workday. The weather has been particularly unpredictable with some bright blue skies and late winter sunshine (yey!) but very high winds, sudden rain and hail showers and some very cold temperatures (boo!).

How did we get to J within two months? Winds and rain have been battering the south coast since the beginning of the year (contrast that with last February when temperatures soared to over 20C!) but at least we’ve not suffered the terrible floods that have besieged other areas of the UK.

Who knows what the spring will bring? We’ve ‘suffered’ over the last few years from relatively dry springs and summers – not great for getting seeds growing in our chalky soil. In places I’ve noticed that the soil texture actually looks better now than in previous years because of the rain, but on Brighton Greenway, there’s also been water-logging of the path which we tried to deal with at our January session. We shall see … I don’t think there’s ever been a ‘predictable’ growing season.

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Stratifying yellow rattle seeds

No, I didn’t know what ‘seed stratification’ was until last Sunday. James turned up with pots of germinated seed of yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor). These had been in his fridge. How very counter-intuitive! I am constantly trying to find warm window sills to get seeds to germinate but apparently ‘stratification’ by placing seeds in a very cold environment is the way to go with some types of cold climate seed.

The idea is that you trick the seed into believing it has already experienced winter and is now ready to power out into spring. Cold climate plants cannot afford for seeds to germinate in the warm temperatures of late summer as the resulting plants might not survive long enough – due to winter frosts – to set seed themselves and continue nature’s cycle.

So the nearest thing to a ‘calendar’ to tell them when to germinate is temperature sensitivity; they won’t germinate until after a period of cold followed by warmth. Placing the seeds in the fridge aims to speed up the ‘cold’ period, and sure enough, the yellow rattle seeds had sprouted.

There was another pot with germinated seeds  in flour and water … We’ve planted both lots experimentally in two small rows among some of our other wildflower plantings. It’ll be interesting to see whether they are able to withstand the often harsh conditions of Brighton Greenway (principally the competition of dock, thistles and nettles due to over-rich soil, and disturbance by dogs).

Yellow rattle is a particularly useful wildflower. It is semi-parasitic feeding off the nutrients in the roots of grasses. In this way, it helps control the growth of grass that we don’t want in our ‘wildflower meadow’, leaving the way clear for the less brutish wildflowers to thrive. It’s an annual but its rattling seeds spread easily and should germinate easily (even without being placed in a fridge) thus establishing the plant in our wildflower area and hopefully, helping other wildflowers to thrive.

There was a lot of evidence this weekend of wildflowers coming up strongly: achillea, centaurea, campions, herb robert … It felt counter-intuitive again to cut back this growth but that is what needed to be done in order to weaken the competitors. We’ve cut back strongly along the Isetta strip where – despite our best efforts – a set of ‘specimen beds’ respectively of nettles, dock, thistles and grass seem to have established. Underneath there somewhere our wildflower seeds are trying their best to come up. Again counter-intuitively, it is the nutrient-richness of the soil on the Greenway that is enabling this growth of the plant ‘thugs’ (alternatively, plants super-well-adapted to their environment). Hence the value of seeding yellow rattle …

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Pocket parks? Could we benefit?

A government scheme supports ‘the transformation of (small) unloved areas’ into green spaces that can be enjoyed by all: the Pocket Park scheme.

This sounds like the kind of thing that could benefit Brighton Greenway: the government documents refer to the importance of green spaces in providing “a wealth of opportunities to get closer to nature, meet up with friends, play, take physical exercise, walk the dog or even just have some quiet time in the fresh air with a cup of coffee from their local high street.”

Do you have any ideas about what we could do under this scheme to improve use and enjoyment of Brighton Greenway? Do get in touch: our email is fobrightongreenway@outlook.com.

 

 

 

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‘Pigeon poo’ bridge

It’s so sad that New England Bridge, which was built in 1839-40 in the style of a triumphal arch to celebrate the arrival of the railway, is now known to locals as ‘Pigeon Poo bridge’. But thanks to initiative by Prestonville Community Association, Brighton & Hove City Council and Network Rail have recognised just how unpleasant New England Bridge has become, particularly for pedestrians. And moves are afoot to try to improve the area, starting with a mural on the bridge wall, which has become very badly tagged in the last year or so.

This area, just before the entrance to Brighton Greenway up the embankment, is probably one of the most disagreeable places in Brighton for pedestrians: the pavements are covered in pigeon droppings, damp drips down the brick walls of the bridge, it’s dark and dank and notoriously polluted as traffic slows and idles at the traffic lights. Years ago, Friends of Brighton Greenway tried to get Network Rail to do something about the pigeons nesting on the bridge, but we were told this would require huge investment and was not a priority.

Thankfully, Prestonville Community Association took up the cudgels again last year and succeeded, with the help of our MP, in getting Network Rail to fit new netting. Cityclean also say they are jet-cleaning weekly.

To deter tagging, a mural is proposed for the bridge wall. There’ll be more discussion on this at our forthcoming AGM on 3rd November 2pm (see ‘Our meetings’), led by Katy Beinart from School of Architecture, University of Brighton. Come along with your ideas!

We also suggested developing ‘green’ walls up the side of the bridge, again to deter tagging, and wondered how the area underneath the bridge and the small borders either side of the turning to the Old Shoreham Rd could be made more attractive. They were planted with trees and shrubs at one point, but these have now become badly overgrown.

Hopefully, working with other community groups, with Network Rail and the Council, we can drum up some energy to improve this area.

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