Volunteer in a Brighton community garden

Just got this lovely video from Jo at Brighton & Hove Food Partnership about volunteering in local community gardens. Our garden is featured towards the end (remember? Jo came round to film last summer).

Take a look!

And if you fancy volunteering with us, do get in touch: lrsp@hotmail.co.uk


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Brightening up the shady garden

Last Tuesday, we ventured out into the London Road station gardens for the first work session of this year. Two of us cleared weeds and straggly plants from the raised beds in the edible growing area and dug over the soil. It’s a bit soggy at the moment and benefitted from getting some aeration. In both plots, the soil is looking rich and moist with lots of worms, thanks to our liberal layering of compost in the autumn. We also cut back the autumn raspberry canes in pots and I’ve given them a top dressing of sulphur of potash.

3.15 PolyanthusAt this time of year, as we finally feel spring is out there somewhere but are not quite sure when it will arrive, the gardens are looking tired. We’ve been blessed these last few days in Brighton with bright days and no rain, so it was a good time to freshen the soil and bring some colour into the shady garden. Two local shops have been selling cheap and cheerful primula and I managed to pick up 16 for not very much. They are not distinguished or subtle plants, but their unashamedly bright colour is a boon in the poor light of our early spring. We planted some miniature skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ earlier in the winter and their red flowers and glossy dark leaves work well with the reds and purples of the primula. Daffodils are in bud as is our Mahonia, bringing some splashes of yellow to the shady garden. I also think the fuchsia we planted during the early summer are going to survive: they are twiggy skeletons at the moment, but there was green wood there when I snipped off some of the spindly twigs.

Pansies, a few dwarf daffodils and primula are also flowering in our tree pits. And finally the symmetry at the front of the station has been restored. Another sorbus has been planted to replace the one which got blown down in a storm in October 2013: thank-you, Brighton & Hove Cityparks. We will look after it and water it if we don’t have much rain.


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Planning for 2015 – after the AGM

Xmas 2014 decorations at LRB

Xmas 2014 decorations at LRB

It’s that time of year. We’ve moved on from Christmas, but it’s still dark and wet. Never mind – a good time for meeting and looking forward. We’ve just had our Annual General Meeting: our report and accounts can be viewed under Documents above or by clicking here. And here are four key things we want to work on for 2015, in addition to our usual work on the edible plot and the shady triangle of shade-loving ornamental plants.

1. We hope to be bringing splashes of colour again to the area when we plant up (or renew planting in): 3 planters on station platform, the tree pits in Shaftebury Place, 2 planters at The Signalman and the hollows of the trees cut down on Ditchling Rise. We’ve overwintered and propagated lots of geraniums and fuchsias ready for late spring planting, we’ve also got alyssum seedlings on the go, ivy plants are growing well, and I’m hoping the purple red heuchera cuttings don’t get undermined by vine weevils.

Vivid colours in our platform planters

Vivid colours in our platform planters

2. The big old planters we were looking after at Preston Circus are to be removed. We’ve cleared most of the plants, and we’re talking to BHCC about a new planter at the bottom of Clyde Road with more harmonious paving and a community notice board at Duke of York cinema. We’ve repotted santolina, festuca grasses, a couple of hardy chrysanthemums. Sadly, plants in the Duke of York planters had suffered from vine weevils.

Removing nettles on Brighton Greenway

Removing nettles on Brighton Greenway

3. We’re also involved with Brighton Greenway to try to make this into a really pleasant walkway up to Brighton station, as well as a thriving wildlife area and mini-park, with interpretation boards celebrating its railway heritage and possibly with some food growing. Next Action Day: Sunday 8th February 12.30 to 3.30 meet back of Clarendon Centre, BN1 4GQ. Contact Madeleine (madcary@yahoo.com) or me if you’re interested in taking part.

4. And finally … We’d like this year to get another nomination for Southern Railway’s Stars and Tsars Best Community Station award: to do this, we need to keep up efforts to tidy and improve environment at the station, and keep everybody involved in gardening, composting, events etc. We’re going to do a recce of the station and areas which need a bit of attention: the Albion in the Community group did a fantastic job clearing weeds, but they do come back, and walls by the edible plot need repainting. And there’s paint peeling away in various places – all ready for a spring spruce-up, once we get the spring.



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Sunday on The Greenway

Greenway start 2Raking and cuttingThis Sunday, the sky was blue, the sun was shining: no rain, and mercifully, no wind. Still cold is easier to deal with. Walking along The Greenway from north to south, we noticed that the graffiti on the walls had been painted out. And there was a warm welcome for us when we reached the Church of Christ the King (CCK), our meeting point. We felt optimistic.

Up on the Greenway w bikeJess, the ranger, was there with tools and guidance. Our task today was to clear nettles and dock leaves in the grassy areas, clear leaves and dead vegetation around the vines climbing up the walls and pick up littler. We were around fifteen people, including two families and their children. As one of the younger participants observed, ‘This is actually quite good fun!’, as we massacred nettles and dock leaves.

It was good to hear from John from Brighton & Hove Wildlife Forum that the vegetation towards the north end was probably the most important for wildlife. We started to see The Greenway in terms of different areas: a wildlife area from the bridge to the first set of benches, a slightly more cultivated or controlled area from the benches to the entrance from Boston Street. We talked about possibly moving some of the giant implements from ivy-clad pillars to the bare ones.

Chocolate square

This will be ‘Chocolate Cake’ square

My young co-worker and I, as we dug up recalcitrant nettles and dock leaves, decided to name the cleared grassy area ‘Chocolate Cake Square’ as we felt our efforts should transform this area into a nice place for picnicking in the summer. The summer, it turned out, was when his birthday was, and we vowed to make the area a great place to eat birthday cake.

It was wonderful to see so many people using The Greenway: dog walkers, people clearly coming from the station, people on their way back from the centre of town, people taking a stroll and people taking a work break. ‘It’s my favourite walk’ shouted out one young man. Two people walking their dog stopped to talk at length. Several thanked us for working on the area.

By two o’clock, we needed a break, and James, the pastor at CCK, provided us with soup and bread around a wooden table: a chance to take a breath and enjoy a really nice moment of coming together. At the same time, the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ demonstration was taking place in Paris. We’d talked about this as we walked over to the Greenway and as we walked back. The giant work implements on The Greenway can be seen as celebrating gardening and/or the steam railway, with its wrenches and shovels. Perhaps we should also have left a jar of pencils in Chocolate Cake Square after our very small celebration of comm-unity.

Interested in The Greenway? Come to Action Group meeting Tuesday 13 Jan, 7.30pm Clarendon Centre (CCK), BN1 4GQ



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The Greenway – your help needed

It seems not many people know The Greenway. True – there’s not much to indicate its presence. It’s a lovely pedestrian pathway into the centre of Brighton. You can access it from New England Road. Just after passing under the iron bridge, there’s a path leading up steps to the right. It goes over the bridge and leads up to Stroudley Road.

It’s got very overgrown and feels rather forlorn Greenway entrance southnow, so a number of local groups are getting together to try to revive it and help it fulfil its potential. It could be Brighton’s Highline!

We are trying to meet once a month to clear overgrowth and pick up litter: come along Sunday 11th January 2015 12.30 to 3.30 to back of Clarendon Centre, Boston Street, BN1 4GQ. Do wear solid shoes and warm waterproof clothing. Bring gardening gloves and secateurs if you have them.

We are also organising regular open meetings for all interested in reinvigorating The Greenway so we can discuss ideas and start to plan a way forward. The next meeting is Tuesday 13th January 2015 7.30pm at the Clarendon Centre, BN1 4GQ. Do come along – the Greenway has a bright potential future!

Greenway Image2951



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The Happy New Year ahead – some dates


December foxgloveMy last post of 2014 in early November and my first post of 2015 bear an almost identical photo. Our miraculous foxglove is still flowering on the south platform at the Brighton end …

It’s not been a bad end of year. We’ve had some storms, we’ve had some rain, we’ve had some frost but few of the extremes we’ve experienced in previous years. As usual, gardens are looking very forlorn though the platform planters at the station are holding their own.

To get the new year started, while the days are dull and short, here are some key dates for the first part of 2015:

Sunday 11th January 12.30 – 3.30 Greenway Action Day, Church Christ the King (CCK), Boston Street. Bring secateurs and loppers if you have them, and gardening gloves – and as it does get cold and wet, do wear warm rainproof clothing.

Tuesday 13th January 3.30 LRSP get-together/AGM. Conservatory, Shaftesbury Lane by LR station. Our time to look back at 2014, plan for 2015, review our accounts and elect committee.

Tuesday 13th January 7.30 Greenway Action Group. Venue to be confirmed, but likely CCK Clarendon Centre.

Sunday 1st February 10.30 – 4.30, Seedy Sunday, Corn Exchange. The biggest community seed-swap in the country. More info here

Sunday 8th February 12.30 – 3.30 Greenway Action Day, CCK. To be confirmed.

Tuesday 3rd March 2.30 – 4.30 Beginning of LRSP gardening year – we hope! Meet, weather permitting, in Gated Plot by bridge, south side.

Wednesday 18th March 2pm, City in Bloom Working Group, Ante Room Brighton Town Hall

Monday 30th March, 1pm, Brighton & Hove City in Bloom 2014 launch, Jubilee Library.

Thursday 23rd April at 2pm City in Bloom Working Group, Ante Room Brighton Town Hall

Thursday 28th May at 2pm. City in Bloom Working Group, Ante Room Brighton Town Hall



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Winter platform planting

Planters Brighton nov 2014 foxglove

Foxglove in Brighton planter

We’ve just replanted the platform planters at London Road station for the winter with shade-tolerant plants: cyclamen, ivy and hebe. In the summer, the planters were slow to get going. Was it the very thick claggy compost we used, supposed to be ‘black gold’? Was it the fact that the planters are in shade for much of the day? Or was it the textile bags around the roots of the bedding plants which were supposed to make planting easier? We’re not sure – probably all three. We very nearly gave up on the foxgloves which were supposed to the be tall, eye-catching specimens in the centre of the planters. But now, at a most unexpected time of the year, they have decided to rally.


Lush foxgloves in Nick's planter - to flower in the spring?

Lush foxgloves in Nick’s planter – to flower in the spring?

We have a flowering foxglove in the planter at the Brighton end of the platform. ‘Nick’s planter’, by the ticket office, is dominated by three lush, though non-flowering, foxgloves. We’ve transplanted another hearty foxglove into the planter at the Lewes end. The Lewes and Brighton planters now also have two purple hebes, and we’ve filled in with cyclamen and variegated ivy. We’ve replanted the rich purple leaved heuchera in the Brighton planter. The pastel colours may need to be enlivened by a few more vivid cyclamen.

Lewes end planter

Lewes end planter

As is typical of planters filled with compost, the level of the soil had sunk quite significantly since the summer. We’ve topped up with a mixture of multipurpose compost, our remaining Veolia soil enhancer from municipal recycling and our own very worm-rich chunky compost. We’ve added a scattering of chicken manure pellets for slow release in the spring: these provide a good source of nitrogen (for leaves, rather than flowers) but we may need to provide a bit more potassium and phosphorous to support the flowers. We also added bone meal to promote rooting.

It’s not been great weather for mixing compost and planting up. After a perfect Tuesday morning spent buying plants, Tuesday afternoon’s planting session had to be aborted because of heavy rain. Overnight, the temperature plummeted and there was a short-lived air frost. Things did soon warm up and despite threatening clouds and high winds, the rain held off on Thursday afternoon. Nevertheless, it was cold and wet work for Daphne, Mark, Madeleine and me. The new plants should be OK, though, as they are sheltered by the high wall. The bright cyclamen provide wonderful points of colour in an otherwise predominantly grey environment.

Bright pink cyclamen in Lewes planter

Bright pink cyclamen in Lewes planter

We had two very positive happenings in the process of planting. First, two young men coming off the train were proposing to walk off with my ever-so-useful gardening trolley, standing idle at the compost area gates. However, shamed by my shouting, they then insisted on penitence, and ended up shifting sacks of compost and unloading the trolley for me.

Second, our local B&Q store was scaling down its garden section. As I arrived at the check-out with £1-reduced packs of pansies and some ivy, the garden section manager said: ‘Do you want anymore plants?’. What a mad question!  I always want more plants! ‘Just go and get what you want: we’ll only charge you half price for everything!’ Wow – a garden centre trolley-grab! Heaven! Probably just as well that the plants had to be taken back to London Road Station on foot. Thanks to B&Q, we now have pansies galore for the tree pits and mini lime-green cypress trees, skimmias and ivy for the pub planters. The magic of community gardening!




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