Blossom watch day: National Trust urges UK to share blooms

Life may be getting busier as the long, hard lockdowns come to an end but people are being urged to pause for a few moments to savour the sights and scents of one of nature’s precious but fleeting glories – the blossom season.

The National Trust is launching on Saturday what it bills as the UK’s first ever “blossom watch” day. The idea is that people will find a tree, bush or hedge bursting with blooms, perhaps meet friends and family there and – if so inclined – share images of the moment on social media using the hashtag #BlossomWatch.

This spring’s weather, which has included sub-zero temperatures and snow, has meant there has been a patchy start for some early blossoming trees such as magnolia. But the wonderful sunshine that many areas have enjoyed means that bright blooms on cherry, hawthorn, apple and pear trees are now here, or soon expected.

A pilot “blossom watch” project launched by the trust last spring was extraordinarily successful, with thousands of people sharing images of blossoms they had seen during their lockdown walks or from their windows. In just over a fortnight, more than 4 million people viewed the images.

This year the centrepiece of the 2021 campaign is the request for people to head out on Saturday and help build a snapshot of the country’s blossom. It also wants nature lovers to tag their locations so that a digital map charting the progress of the blooms can be pulled together.

Annie Reilly, the blossom programme manager at the National Trust, said she hoped people in the UK would begin a new tradition emulating hanami, the Japanese custom of relishing the fleeting sight and scent of blossom.

She said: “There has been a lot of research into the connection between enjoying moments in nature and feelings of wellbeing, and with social-distancing measures having eased slightly, meeting a handful of family or friends under a blossom tree could be the ideal way to lift spirits and re-connect with people. We want to embed this tradition for the future, and if ever there was a year to appreciate the joy and comfort of nature, surely 2021 is it.”

Simon Toomer, plant specialist at the National Trust, has been enjoying a couple of spectacular blossoming ornamental cherry trees in a neighbour’s garden.

He said the trials and tribulations this year of the magnolia flowers, which have been hit in many parts by plunging overnight temperatures, have been a reminder of the transience and fragility of blossom.

“Temperatures will undoubtedly rise over the next week or two and this will bring on the cherry blossom followed closely by apples, pears and other fruit in gardens and orchards,” he said. “We will also see insect pollinators increasing in number to ensure those flowers develop into fruit for a bountiful harvest.”

Toomer said he believed the lockdowns had led to people noticing and thinking about nature more. “People are making a point of going out. If they take the same route, which many do, they notice changes such as blossom suddenly blooming.”

One of those who will be taking part on Saturday, Sarah Faulkner, from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, said: “The delicate scent in clean, crisp air fills me with hope. Bees buzzing around with excitement really make me smile. It reminds me of long country walks with my dad when I was younger, he’d point out every bug and flower to me so I didn’t miss a thing.”

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