Butterfly bank creates city centre haven for wildlife

A new ‘butterfly bank’ planted with 1,000 downland plants has been created in the heart of Brighton.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s parks team joined forces with the Brighthelm Trust’s gardening group and youth ranger volunteers from the Sussex Wildlife Trust to create the feature in Brighthelm Gardens off Queen’s Road.

Measuring about 12 metres long, and created from six tonnes of chalk, the bank will provide a haven for butterflies, bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. It is made up of a low bank of undulating chalk mounds – resembling a miniature version of the downland surrounding Brighton & Hove.

Plants from around 20 wild flower species have been planted into the bank, including ox-eye daisy, harebell, wild marjoram, wild basil, common toadflax, small scabious, lesser knapweed, bird’s foot trefoil, dropwort, chamomile, betony, wild carrot, and kidney vetch. All the plants were grown at the council’s nursery at Stanmer Park from seed collected from chalk grasslands around the city. The Brighthelm Trust will tend the butterfly bank, cutting and composting vegetation at the end of each year.

The Brighthelm butterfly bank has been created as part of the Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere programme’s objective to connect people and nature by improving urban green spaces to benefit both.

It is the latest in a series of 15 chalk butterfly banks of wild flowers created across the city by the council over the past three years. The largest is at East Brighton Park where volunteers helped to plan 10,000 wild flowers last year. Other locations include Woodingdean Park, Hove Park, Victoria Park, Hollingbury Park and Dorothy Stringer School.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment Committee, said: “Volunteers and staff have created a haven for wildlife in the very heart of the city. Thousands of people pass the gardens every day on their way to and from the station, and we hope residents and visitors will enjoy colourful displays of wild flowers as the plants become established. It is community wildlife projects like these that helped to achieve the internationally recognised Biosphere status."

Rik Child, the Director of Brighthelm, said: “The Brighthelm Centre has been moving forwards in its commitment to improving its environmental performance as part of living out its mission in the community. We are delighted with the chalk bank that will enhance the number of butterflies in the garden and are pleased to be part of the urban Biosphere and to help promote its aims and ideals. This new development sits well alongside the demonstration vegetable garden, wild flower patch and composting facilities that have been developed in recent years with help from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, the city council and other partners."

Butterfly banks are one of range of projects in the city to attract wildlife, for example, wild flowers have been planted at Preston Park and The Level recently received a national award for work to attract bees and other pollinating insects. 

The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Region is recognised by UNESCO as a world-class environment that is pioneering a positive future by connecting people and nature.