Yesterday afternoon a few dozen cherry blossom enthusiasts gathered on Abbeydale Park Rise in Totley to appreciate this year’s display. The occasion, organised by STARTS, was especially poignant because 17 of these trees were targeted for felling as part of the Streets Ahead highways renewal programme.
Labelled as causing damage to the highway and pavements, five have been removed only to be ‘replaced’ with saplings. Three now remain on the ‘at risk’ list, one of which is showing localised signs of disease, while the rest have been given a belated reprieve. Many, including myself, fought hard to save these trees from destruction – the damage caused by their roots was never enough of a justification for wholesale removal.
The cherries were planted 40 years ago after fundraising by the local community; the two women who were responsible still live on the street all these years later. What better way to demonstrate high regard for one’s neighbourhood than by planting trees for the benefit of future generations?
Cherries deliver a wow factor that is little matched in the urban landscape. The right choice of ornamental cherry species provides both a feast for the senses as well as a valuable resource for the city’s wildlife. This latter point being ably demonstrated by the multitude of bees, of many different species, going about their work with a purposeful urgency.
Getting up close and personal with a cherry is an immersive experience: the visual joy of pale pink blossom framed against blue sky; a faint fragrance in the sun-warmed air; the susurration of flowers jostled by a lazy breeze – these are nature connections that can be enjoyed for free and that work a gentle magic on a busy mind, if you let them in.
There was some talk, but also much quiet reflection, while people drew, painted and photographed the seasonal scene. This is just one of the many forms that tree appreciation now takes in Sheffield. The event reminded me of two Japanese cultural phenomenons: annual blossom parties held under trees – albeit with cups of tea standing in for the traditional sake – and Shinrin-Yoku, aka ‘forest bathing’. The latter discipline instructs us to “walk slowly, breathe and open all your senses” – I do not need to be asked twice.