Cherry blossom appreciation

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.

“cherry blossom abbeydale park rise

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.

Justified and Ancient: the Value of Trees in Cities

“Justified and Ancient- the Value of Trees in CitiesOn 23rd June 2018 I will be delivering a short talk on the subject of street trees as part of this year’s International Tree Foundation event taking place in Sheffield.

Myself and others will be on hand to answer your questions as part of the panel.  Tickets are limited – get your free ticket here.

200 celebrate the Western Road Memorial trees

23 of the War Memorial trees on Western Road in Crookes, Sheffield, are due to replaced as part of the Streets Ahead PFI contract to upgrade the city’s highways. Other memorial trees on adjoining roads are also under threat. Most have been condemned because they are displacing kerb stones and damaging pavements, making access more difficult.

“Western Road Memorial TreesStandard solutions exist to address these problems, solutions that are routinely used in many cities but sadly not in Sheffield.

While stone-built monuments are given protection in law – and desecrating them is a crime – these trees have no special legal status and the Council stand by their decision to fell.  They intend to plant new Memorial Trees elsewhere in the city; many think that these trees, invested with so much symbolism, cannot simply be replaced.

Planted a year after World War I ended, these trees mark a particular moment in our collective history and there is nothing more apt than a living memorial to honour the dead.

“Love Trees, Axe PFIToday 200 people gathered to celebrate these trees, now in their 99th year, and to peacefully ask Sheffield City Council to reconsider their plans to fell them.

For more information on these and other notable trees that are facing the chop visit: Save Sheffield Trees.