National Trust to plant blossom trees in cities
The National Trust is planning to plant dozens of blossoming trees, including cherry, hawthorn and plum, at different sites around the UK.
As part of the plan, a circle of 33 trees will be planted across the capital, one representing each borough and the City of London.
Designs are being finalised for groves in Nottingham, Newcastle and Plymouth - and other sites will follow.
The project will help improve access to nature for those in towns and cities.
The idea is to try to create a UK equivalent of Japan's concept of "Hanami" - the annual celebration of flowers, and the coming of spring.
Research carried out for the National Trust last year showed that almost half a million people live in "grey deserts " with no trees or green spaces nearby.
Hilary McGrady, director general of the Trust, said the project was in its infancy, but "from little acorns great things grow".
She added: "I want this to be just as valid as planting vast tracts of trees on mountains - it's just as valid for every individual to want to plant a tree in their garden or their city.
"At the heart of it, now more than ever, people need a little bit of soft beauty in their world, and remembering why nature matters."
According to numerous studies carried out after the first lockdown, being around nature is crucial to people's mental and physical health.
However, according to conservation group WWF, the UK is one of the most "nature depleted countries in the world".
Ms McGrady said the National Trust would be calling on the government to create solid commitments to protecting the natural world, ahead of hosting the global climate conference - known as COP 26 - in November.
"We need them to start to put money and action where their mouths are - we need some tangible targets. We want, by 2030, for the government to have halted the decline in nature. We have every opportunity to hold their feet to the fire," she told BBC News.
Ms McGrady added: "Covid has taught us lots of lessons, including the importance of nature. The public are behind it."
The project, part-funded by the People's Postcode Lottery, and supported by Historic England, will begin at a site in London. There are other plans for circles in Plymouth, Newcastle, Nottingham and other sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The National Trust's London Blossom Garden is being planted in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Newham. It's in the same borough as the temporary NHS Nightingale Covid-19 hospital. The local community was involved in the design.
It's designed to be a "commemorative space" to reflect on the impact Covid-19 has had on the capital.
London's Mayor Sadiq Khan explained: "This new public garden will create a lasting, living memorial to commemorate all those who have lost their lives in the pandemic. It will be a tribute to the amazing ongoing work of our key workers and create a space for Londoners to contemplate and reflect on all this global pandemic has meant to our city and world."
The nascent plan for a circle in Newcastle is supported by Newcastle City Council and Urban Green Newcastle (UGN).
Barbara Hooper, UGN's director for parks and allotments, said: "The events of the past year have highlighted more than ever how important it is for us all to have access to green space. Somewhere for us to breathe fresh air, connect with nature, and find solace during difficult times."
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