Blossoming tree circles will be planted in towns and cities across the UK “to help signal reflection and hope” following the Covid-19 pandemic, a conservation charity has announced.
The National Trust aims to create the green spaces in and around urban areas over the next five years to connect more people to nature as part of its blossom campaign, which begins next month.
The first blossom circle will be at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London and will include 33 UK-grown trees, including cherry, plum, hawthorn and crab apple, to represent the 33 London boroughs.
Planting is currently under way, with the new garden due to be completed this spring.
The charity hopes the garden will be “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 mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The blossoming trees will be a permanent reminder of this incredibly challenging time in all our lives and a symbol of how Londoners have stood together to help one another.”
The National Trust said it hoped to embed an annual marking of the spring blossom season akin to Japan’s hanami – the ancient tradition of viewing and celebrating cherry blossom as the first sign of spring – to bring more people outdoors and boost tourism.
It said many people recognised the importance of access to nature during lockdown after the coronavirus outbreak led to the closure of shops and hospitality, with many finding time in green spaces beneficial for their physical health and mental well-being.
If, by creating these blossom spaces, we can create areas for people of all ages to take notice and connect with the natural world - while also creating havens for urban nature – that has to be a good thing
Hilary McGrady, National Trust
The project will see the National Trust and its partners, including Historic England, work with local communities on the design, tree-planting and plans for how the spaces will be used, and will offer MPs a blossoming tree for planting in their constituency.
It cited a report by consultancy firm Vivid Economics published last summer which found 295 deprived urban neighbourhoods across Britain had what it described as “grey deserts”, with no trees or accessible green space.
Hilary McGrady, director general at the National Trust, said: “This project is just one element of our ambitions to plant more trees and to address Britain’s need for green space and nature where people live.
“If, by creating these blossom spaces, we can create areas for people of all ages to take notice and connect with the natural world – while also creating havens for urban nature – that has to be a good thing.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It’s a fantastic example of how heritage organisations help make our neighbourhoods more beautiful and improve our physical and mental well-being, and I look forward to seeing this project bloom in our communities.”
Other blossom-inspired spaces also in the pipeline include Newcastle, Nottingham and Plymouth.