Brighton is well known for many things but trees are not necessarily one of them, however if you spend a bit of time in the city you’ll find out that the cities environmentally friendly culture is reflected in its green sights. This short circular walk takes in the main central Brighton green spaces – parks, gardens and street trees – whilst also showing you the main highlights of the city.
Highlights – the largest quantity and variety of UK Elm trees, Victoria Pavilion Gardens, Art and planting in the Lanes, secret gardens and parks with wonderful views across Brighton and the sea
Start and finish at Brighton Station
Time 1.5 – 2 hours depending on stops
Starting outside the station, walk Camden Terrace and the following small roads, admiring residential front gardens as you go along them, you will reach the Clifton Terrace area which is home to St Nicholas Rest Gardens and St Nicholas Church both of which provide uncrowded views of Brighton seafront with a nice green foreground and are areas of Pre-Christian importance and have been located on this site since the 11th Century.
Next follow Church Street down through the North lanes, admire the small community garden at the junction with Queens Road, thats has a good variety of shrub and vegetable beds tended locally.
At the bottom of the hill turn onto New Road, which in 2010 was converted into a pedestrian priority street for people rather than cars by the council with support from Gehl architects using a concept called shared space. Take a seat on the beautifully designed street seating and watch people as they own the road.
You now enter the tranquil Pavilion Gardens, the historic gardens of the Royal Pavilion which contains a great variety of tree species, the most interesting of which include 7 different varieties of Elm trees – check out the Brighton Elm Tree Collection for more info. Brighton’s topography shielded by the downs and the sea and the efforts of the council have enabled it to preserve Elm trees, where else where in the UK they perished from Dutch Elm Disease in the late 20th Century. In the Gardens of particular note are the Weeping Wych Elm for its elegant form and the English Elm which is the oldest tree in the gardens, planted in the 1780s. Take time to also enjoy the gardens shrubbery and views of the Pavilion itself.
Next continue heading East by crossing Old Steine with a view across the gardens south to the pier and the English Channel – wind your way up St James Street taking in the the large amount of independent restaurants and cafes until you reach Upper Rock Gardens. On your way stop at the peaceful New Steine Gardens on your right, which provides quieter views down to the sea framed by the narrow gardens with Yucca species, the poignant and moving Aids victims statue and adjacent terrace housing.
Turning left up Upper Rock Gardens crossing the main road and continuing straight up the hill until you reach the grand Victoria entrance to Queens Park via West Drive. The planting inside reflects this grandeur, with a unique hilly leisure park with wonderful sloping views framed by lots of traditional British trees such as Oaks, Limes and more elms plus palms and aquatic planting around the pond.
You can find another Weeping Wych Elm in the park plus an avenue of Huntington Elms.
Continue north uphill to exit the park on Tower Road. You’ll soon notice the Pepper Pot building that you are heading towards, which in its life time since 1830 (built as part of the Park) has been the sight of a newspaper printing, a WW2 observational tower, a scouts lodge and an artists studio.
Now making your way down one of Brighton’s steepest roads – Southhover Street – at the bottom of which you’ll reach The Level – one of Brighton’s oldest green spaces, which has existed for over 300 years, with a rich history of being a Peoples park, as a place of celebration, protest and fun – as usual it has a large number of Elm Tree avenues as well as beautiful shrub planting designed around the cafe, playground, skate park and fountain that were upgraded as part of the complete restoration in 2013.
Exiting South of the level you’ll head past St Peters Church with and right up Trafalgar Street. Heading back to the station why not enjoy some well earned refreshment at one of the main pubs, cafes or restaurants. Before you finish your green adventure outside the train station, notice the small ubiquitous Pelham Square and residential Trafalgar Terrace in the lanes on your left as you go up the hill; with the frequently well looked after private gardens often with palm and olive trees.