London is set for a brand new tourist attraction, a cherry blossom tree circle at the Olympic Park. Planting is underway and should be ready by this spring. Which is handy, because spring just happens to be cherry blossom season!

Japan has long served as a pilgrimage destination for lovers of cherry blossom. The beautiful pinks and reds visible across the country during ‘Hanami’ or ‘flower viewing’, the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, brings flocks of sightseers from far and wide. It’s been successfully aped by others, notably Washington DC, and now London looks set to get in on the action.

London's cherry blossom plans. Credit: Davies White

Initially London will receive 33 trees, planted at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, the same borough as the temporary Nightingale Hospital, and the new installation will double as a memorial to the victims of COVID-19.

The number of cherry blossom trees corresponds to the total number of London’s boroughs, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan who announced the Mayor’s Office’s involvement saying ‘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 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.’

Britain's cities are "grey deserts" with over half a million people living with trees or green spaces nearby...

The whole initiative is the work of the National Trust, and London will form just part of their plans. The circles will also pop up in Nottingham, Newcastle and Plymouth.

According to the Trust, Britain’s cities are “grey deserts” with over half a million people living with trees or green spaces nearby. The hope is that by creating Britain’s own equivalent of Hanami.

Japan's cherry blossom season is famously stunning...
Washington DC, too, is a magnet for cherry blossom seekers...

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden weighed in, saying ‘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’.

It’s all linked to the National Trust’s 20 Million Trees initiative, which hopes to plant, um, 20 million trees, all by 2030. So there you go, not all fusty houses and faintly racist statues after all. And we get our own cherry blossom season out of it too.

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