A year on from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Trust and partners are looking to spring blossom to help signal reflection and hope with their plans to plant blossoming tree circles in cities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next five years.
Part of the charity’s blossom campaign which kicks off in earnest next month, the ambition is to create beautiful green spaces in and near urban areas to connect more people to nature and to create spaces for hope and reflection as the UK looks forward.
Last summer, a report by Vivid Economics highlighted inequalities in access to green space across Britain with 295 deprived urban neighbourhoods described as ‘grey deserts’, with no trees or accessible green space.
And last spring, many recognised the importance of access to nature during lockdown when so many found time in nature beneficial not just for their physical health but mental wellbeing too. Previous research by the Trust has found that everyday connection to nature is beneficial to human health and wellbeing and also benefits the natural environment as those who are more connected to nature are more likely to take action to protect and care for it. Thousands shared striking images of spring blossom to help lift people’s spirits with the charity’s first ever #BlossomWatch campaign as England went into its first lockdown last March.
The Trust now hopes to embed an annual marking of Spring blossom season, emulating Japan’s hanami, which brings all generations outdoors, boosting tourism and helping people connect with nature.
Local residents will be able to use the new blossom spaces as quiet places for reflection, peace and enjoyment. The conservation charity will work with partners and local communities on the design, tree planting and plans for how the spaces will be used now and in the future. The spaces can be used in various ways including for events and social gatherings, workshops, festivals and exhibitions as lockdown restrictions are eased and for years to come.
The annually blossoming tree circles, with support in part from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will be planted both on and off the Trust’s land, with the charity working with partners to ensure sites are accessible and meet the needs of local communities. The site for the first blossom circle will be Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Newham, the same borough as the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital in London. The London Blossom Garden is being created in partnership with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with support from Bloomberg, working with Rosetta Arts and landscape architects The Edible Bus Stop and Davies White Landscape Architects.
Local residents were invited to help shape the tone, feel and use of their circle. The space will be a commemorative space to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on the capital, and a place to remember all those who have lost their lives, honour key workers and reflect on the city’s shared experience of the pandemic. The final agreed design includes 33 UK grown trees including cherry, plum, hawthorn and crab apple to represent the 33 London boroughs. These will be arranged in three circles and become part of a new public garden. Planting is currently underway with the new garden due to be completed this spring.