So much happening …

IMG_7266We’re well into the growing year of 2017 with very warm temperatures now in May, but thankfully some rain today. It’s been hard to keep up with all the things we’ve been doing up on Brighton Greenway, but in an effort to catch up, here’s an update.

March Action Day

We planted our 30 tiny trees from the Woodland Trust: 6 each of hazel, hawthorn, holly, dog rose and dogwood. We used the holly to reinforce the planting along the east fence and we planted diagonal ‘strips’ comprising 6 tree-lets, a mixture of hazel, hawthorn, dog rose and dogwood, at equal points along the border above Isetta Square.

It was a rather miserable day, I remember, but enlivened by a visit from Pete West – founder member of Friends of Brighton Greenway, one of our ward Councillors and back in March, still Mayor of Brighton & Hove – together with his son and the official mayor’s ‘minder’. Pete and his entourage arrived in the official mayoral vehicle complete with shiny new litter pickers. They were heading off afterwards to do some more litter-picking on Brighton beach. We cleared a lot of litter and planted our baby trees on the Isetta strip.

Later, we planted polyanthus with one of our youngest visitors. We also had 24 more young trees donated by Brighton’s specialist community tree nursery, the aptly named Special Branch: twelve each of spindle and guelder rose, which we’ve been planning to plant for some time. These have been planted wherever there is space, along both west and east sides. And we added some wildflower seedlings – foxgloves, red campion and ox-eye daisies – to the ornamental beds by the fossil seating.

April Action Day

With cowslips out and the cornus showing red stems and lime green leaves, we dug over the bed which had been cleared by volunteers from Network Rail back in March and sow some more wildflower seeds from GrowWild. It had only taken a month for nettles to come back, so it needed quite a bit of work. We wanted to enhance the view from the central fossil bench and allow Jon Mill’s lovely ‘tool fence’ to be seen, as well as the vista over Vantage Point towards Round Hill.

Our biggest challenge since then has been drought: this was one of the driest Aprils on record. As we have to water using watering cans carried from Isetta Square, getting enough moisture in the ground if it doesn’t rain is challenging. Thank goodness May has seen some pretty solid downpours.

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Next workday – SUNDAY 19 March

It’s almost spring … depends whether you count the change of season from the beginning of March or 21st March but the weather is warmer, buds are coming through, daffodils and other bulbs are in bloom and it’s definitely time to get planning and working on new planting.

We have been successful in getting 30 small tree/shrubs from The Woodland Trust. There are 6 each of hawthorne, hazel, holly, dog rose and dogwood. Our plan is to plant four groups of 6 plants to divide up the long strip above Isetta Square. The shrubs will form small blocks or hedges. This should then allow us to think more easily about planting the different sections.

We’ve also got more wildflower seeds from Grow Wild. We’re looking forward to planting these at various sites along the Greenway, in particular along the strip above Isetta Square and in a small bed opposite the main seating area which we cleared with volunteers from Network Rail.

If you can come along on Sunday 19th March midday-3, that would be great! There’s quite a bit of work to do. As always, do wear gardening gloves and sturdy shoes.


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Spring on its way

Spring is on its way on Brighton Greenway. We had a quiet work day last Sunday 19 February: just four of us. We managed to clear quite a bit of litter and hack back some more buddleia. It looks unsightly now but should spring back to life in a more controllable way – we hope.

While we were sawing and litter-picking, people stopped to chat, which is one of the joys of working up on the Greenway. And there were several acts of kindness from unexpected quarters: one person stopped spontaneously to offer help as we struggled to cut up large buddleja branches, while another carried my heavy trolley of tools down the New England steps for me.

We’ve still got some more pruning to try to keep some of the shrubs on the west side in order. The dogwood (Cornus alba siberica) is leggy and damaged, and needs cutting back in order to ensure its bright red stems in the future. There’s also the Rubus cockburnianus which is a tangled mess of thorny stems. They can be beautiful.

img_7185Things are not looking too bad, despite a resurgence in graffiti, and it’s great to see flowers re-appearing: little snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) popping up along the east side, the wild daffodils we planted in autumn 2015 coming back on the bank below Stroudley Rd, and the pink Coltsfoot-like flowers of the ubiquitous winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) showing through. Heartening too, to see that the irises we planted by the seating at the Stroudley Rd end have survived being trampled on and are coming back with new growth.



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FOBG minutes 05/01/17


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Clearing the view

At our workday yesterday, we focused on the area opposite the central seating area. The low fence opposite is decorated with Jon Mills’ shovels and forks, commemorating the railway workers who worked on the steam trains that ran along the Greenway when it was a railway line, but brambles and buddleja had obscured them and the view down to London Road.

Two of us spent three hours hacking back the overgrowth. We’ll finish off clearing this small border area at our next session and then plant probably sow it with our wildflower seed from Grow Wild.

Meanwhile, others were pruning the cotinus further up the path to remove dead stems – this should strengthen the lovely red winter stems  – and clearing leaves from the New England Rd embankment steps. We also re-painted the small alcoves and cleared a fair amount of litter. Still lots more buddleja to get under control but the Greenway looked good in the late afternoon winter sunlight.

At our meeting last week and in conversations yesterday, we’ve identified some key areas for our work this year:

  • New England Rd embankment steps
  • The strip above Isetta square
  • An outdoor ‘lounge’ on the small area on the west side just after the bridge


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First 2017 workday – 8th Jan

Happy New Year! 2017 has started with generally dry, crisp weather and thankfully Brighton Greenway is not too soggy. There’s been some additional graffiti, there’s always rubbish and our buddleja pile hasn’t yet been cleared. We hope Cityparks will be able to do this soon.

So our first workday of 2017 is imminent: Sunday 8th Jan midday to 3pm. It will probably be mainly litter-picking, clearing the slippery leaves on the New England embankment steps, painting out graffiti and doing some more cutting back of shrubs. We may need to have a look at the ‘strip’ above Isetta square to see if we can reduce the nettles and thistles, coming up as seedlings at the moment.

We’ve put in an application to The Woodland Trust for 30 small native trees/shrubs: 6 of each of hawthorne, holly, hazel, dog rose and dogwood. If our application is accepted, we plan to plant four small block ‘hedges’ along the Isetta strip, and then in between, we can sow wild flowers or plant some perennials. The idea is to divide up the space to make it a little easier to plan and manage. We’ll find out at the end of January whether our application has been successful. If so, we’ll be busy planting the young trees in March.



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Volunteer leadership day – fun but chilly

An outdoor classroom for a workshop at the end of November? But why not? As volunteers in Brighton and Hove’s green spaces, we were all fairly seasoned types and we were told to dress up warm. On a bright crisp Saturday, there was something quite special about sitting in a circle on tree stumps in a newly coppiced clearing on the hillside at Stanmer. It did get cold, though.

Woodland spirits hovered in the background as Cityparks Rangers Neil and Will went through risk assessment and other paperwork we need in order to lead our volunteer groups. It was very useful that Cityparks have developed completed templates to help us so we have detailed notes on, for example, mitigating trip hazards and working with a range of tools. There was a practical demonstration of trip hazards as we knocked into tree stumps hidden by dead leaves. Stumbling around in the woods highlighted poky branches at eye-level and the dangers of uneven ground.

Coffee, tea and biscuits were thankfully served in the woods, mitigating the risk of frost-bite (OK, I made that bit up) and we swapped challenges and solutions from our different groups. We need to motivate and enthuse other volunteers: I think we all passed with flying colours on that bit, all of us showing true grit by not mentioning blue fingers and cold toes. No, the cold really wasn’t that bad.

After lunch came the fun practical task: doing a safety briefing on different tools. Quite a few I couldn’t lift easily, let alone brief others in their use. Thumper-inners, basher-uppers, rammers, double-headed diggers, double-ended hammers, mattocks, loppers, bill hooks, axes – clearly our work on Brighton Greenway has thus far been fairly genteel compared to what goes on in some of the city’s larger green spaces. The Rangers demonstrated speedy reactions when several wayward dogs, attracted by the chocolate biscuits, threatened to run amok among the blades and spikes.

We have been using pruning saws on the Greenway to attack the buddleja, and these were judged a significant risk by the Rangers: important to protect the non-sawing hand – something to add to our kit and note in our risk assessment. Luckily, for the safety briefing exercise, I managed to pick up the garden fork: warn against straining backs and, remembering my first aid course, piercing feet.

Finally, Ranger Will stepped forward to demonstrate felling a tree … well, a smallish, sapplingish tree – emphasising that we volunteers should not be ‘felling’ anything with a diameter of more than about 15cm. Using a bow saw and an axe, the technique is to cut a wedge half way in on the side where the tree is to fall, and then saw in from the other side slightly above the wedge cut. Finally, having cleared the area, appointed a scout for wayward dogs and people, and replaced the guard on the sawing blade, gently apply pressure from the non-wedge side and Tim-berr … another of the Stanmer coppice hazels fell gracefully to the ground. Greenway buddleja, beware.

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