Walks – from London Road Station?

Change trains and you could go anywhere. 3 changes of train will get you to Moscow and 6 changes will get you to Istanbul.” (http://www.traveloglewes.co.uk)

It’s an inspiring thought when you live next to a railway station, particularly on a grey day in February.

But train still rhymes with rain – a bit of an obsession at the moment as we become resigned to effects of the wettest January for centuries. Today I will be venturing out to look around the London Road Station garden, but while the soil is wet and many plants are still hibernating, thoughts do turn to other things connected to our station.

LRS building webLondon Road Station is a focal point in our community. Many people pass back and forwards over the footbridge to the local primary school, between our two excellent local pubs, The Signalman and The Open House, one on either side of the railway. We all love our Victorian station building, designed by the renowned railway architect of the time, David Macotta.

And the train is a wonderful means of getting out into the Sussex countryside without having to battle around other cars on our increasingly congested Victorian streets: so much more fun to start a walk with a train journey.

I was reminded of this by an e-mail from Chris in Lewes. He has created a wonderful website detailing walks in our area using public transport, and particularly trains. Forget Moscow and Istanbul for the moment, our train stations are the gateways to the magnificent South Downs National Park.

There are some great walks here on Chris’ website from stations along our Brighton to Seaford railway line: Newhaven, Southease to Seaford, Falmer to Ditchling Beacon – all wonderful downland walks with stunning views towards the sea and back towards the Sussex Weald.

At a meeting of the Steering Group for the Brighton to Seaford line, Chris convinced me that we should start thinking about walks from London Road Station. I was a little dubious: why would you want to start from London Road Station, when you are more or less in the National Park when you arrive at Falmer, Lewes, Southease etc?

We can walk up to the Downs from here in about 30-45 minutes, but perhaps more interesting from London Road Station would be some short walks around our Victorian urban area?

750px-London_road_viaductOur streets are very much marked by their railway heritage; it was the coming of the railway in the second part of the 19th century that promoted their development. Houses around here were built for railway managers. Our pub is called The Signalman, formerly the Railway Tavern, and A.A. Taylor’s joinery by the station used to be the stables for horses drawing coaches to take railway passengers on to their destinations. Within five minutes’ walk of London Road Station is the former Railway Mission, now the Calvary Evangelical Church at Preston Circus. And there is the splendid Viaduct, built in 1845: a major architectural attraction when it was first built, with many visitors coming down from London specially to visit it.

Urban walks allow us to look again at familiar streets and buildings, and recognise the everyday history which has shaped them: they are visits to a living museum. And if you want a more typical kind of walk in lovely countryside, then you can hop on a train and get out to the South Downs National Park within minutes.

So it looks like I’ve talked myself into a project: if you’d like to join me in thinking up a ‘railway heritage’ trail from London Road Station, please get in touch: lrsp@hotmail.co.uk

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New year, new stuff

These first grey months of the new year are planning time. At London Road Station, we’ve got two key projects on the horizon.

Planters on the platforms

planter with trellisAs part of the award of ‘Best Community Station’ from Southern Railways, we’re getting three new planters to liven up the railway platforms, north and south. The ones we have chosen have trellising (as above) so we can grow climbing ornamentals and achieve some height – I think it’s up to 1m 80. We’ve budgeted for purchase of annuals and perennials to fill these planters and we’ll need to think about how best we maintain stock for future years. As with the Preston Circus Planters, we’ll need to think carefully about position (there are both shadier and sunnier areas), impact (lots of long lasting colour), shape (combinations of tall, bushy and trailing plants) and sustainability (drought – hard to think of now – and wind). We may want to continue our ‘herb’ theme as a foundation, with flowering annuals interspersed. We now need your ideas!

Brighton to Seaford Line 150th Anniversary

Our station is part of the Brighton to Seaford line, which opened in 1864 – 150th anniversary this year, to be celebrated on Saturday 7th June with all manner of events up and down the line.

We got our history of the station poster up on the south platform last year (thanks, Jim) and you can see a copy of it here. We’ve been thinking about different ideas for celebrating on Saturday 7th, including a street party outside the station. Another idea is to extend our history display and prepare some more posters, perhaps focusing on events and changes at the station and in the area over the last 150 years. If you have any ideas for our celebrations, or reminiscences, please do get in touch!

London Road 4

The eight railway staff outside London Road Station, c. 1920s

Outside Number 6

Outside the south west corner of the railway building, Shaftesbury Place (near what is now our shady garden). Early 1950s


Tramlines being installed at nearby Preston Circus, early 1900s


The badly bombed viaduct (which leads from our station to Brighton mainline), May 1943


Railway workers coming down towards Preston Circus from Brighton engineering works, early1900s

We’ve started collecting a few photos, some of them from the wonderful James Gray collection of historical photos of Brighton.





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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I visited the station gardens for the first time this new year … 2014. We’ve had yet another very distinct winter: this year, warm, windy and wet, wet, wet.  Many parts of Southern England are suffering again with floods, after very high winds and very high tides along the coast.

marigolds in Jan 2014-01-11-1488Here, in the station garden, though, the marigolds in Marlene’s hanging basket are still in flower, and the daffodils we planted in pots in August are coming up, even if everything is looking rather sodden.

Shady from acanthus Jan 14The bulbs we planted in the shady garden as part of the RHS ‘Wild Gardens’ week (more like wild weather week) are showing too. The Shady in Jan 14 2acanthus mollis  – off-shoots from a plant I thought I’d removed from my garden – are loving the wet. They are growing strongly, as is the fatsia japonica.

It’s all somewhat different from this time last year: the picture below was taken on 11 January 2013, when the first snow fell.

2013 was suddenly cold and then stayed cold, right up until June. It is true that the temperatures were falling this afternoon when I was out Shady 1.13 snow cchecking the composting area, but I can’t believe we’ll get snow. The challenge is not so much the frost as rotting and mould.

We have lots of cuttings in the greenhouse for our herb planters and the Preston Circus planters. Most are doing well, but it’s proving hard to keep the geraniums from going mouldy. We also have lots of seedlings which are just waiting for more light and warmth: basil, parsley, lettuce and mustard leaves. I’m loath to plant them out just in case we end up with sustained frost and snow, as in previous years, and in any case, the soil is very, very damp (and the squirrels vandalous).

2013-12-19-1301I am always very impressed to see gardens that manage to get leaf vegetables overwintering. Our neighbours, Stanford Avenue Community Garden, have some lovely lines of mustard and lettuce doing well in their raised bed. And even in the pouring rain, RHS Rosemoor’s vegetable garden (above) was an inspiration when I visited just before Xmas: pretty rows of abundant leaves everywhere.

Perhaps we should experiment more and plant out a few of our seedlings, protecting with a plastic cloche … But this may simply be evidence of that dangerous impatience that seizes gardeners in a mild winter. Snow may be just around the corner.

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Dates for diaries

It always happens in this, the ‘down’ time of the gardening year: there’s planning for future events, thinking about the shape of the forthcoming year.

2013 was a good year for us, with two major awards, and a couple of projects coming to fruition. In 2014, we will be working on developing planters on the platforms at London Road Station, as well as revising some of our planting plans for the edible garden as we try to tame our thuggish raspberries.

Meanwhile, here are some dates for events in 2014:

Sunday 2nd February 2014: Seedy Sunday, Dome, Corn Exchange

Wednesday 26th February: BH City in Bloom Working Group Meeting  2pm Hove Town Hall – Mezzanine

Monday 24th March: Brighton & Hove City in Bloom 2014 Launch, Jubilee Library 11am

Saturday 7th June: Seaford 150 celebrations at London Road Station – celebrating 150th anniversary of the Brighton to Seaford railway line.

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Tea with the Mayor

With the mayor

At our tea with the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Denise Cobb, on November 26, 2013, as part of winning the Edward Furey Community Cup. We enjoyed tea, and were delighted by the explanations given by the Mayor and her assistant (gentleman-at-arms), Darren, about the artworks, silverware and furniture in the Mayor’s Parlour at Brighton’s Town Hall. Below pictures of, among other things, cake-eating and mace-wielding. Not the average Tuesday afternoon gardening session.

Oh yes, and click here to see what our Mayor was doing just before she met us for tea.

Phil EB cake Mark and mace Mayor E mace Marlene mayor Mad at mayor Diane and mace Angie D tea A Mad tea

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Preparing Preston Circus planters for winter

PCP 16.11.13 2 PCP 16.11.13 3 PCP 16.11.13

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