Derby professor's research helps National Trust launch annual #Blossomwatch

18 March 2021

Research from the University of Derby is playing a key part in a new National Trust campaign launched to celebrate spring.

With this spring likely to be the most anticipated in living memory, the Trust is inviting people wherever they live to emulate Japan’s Hanami – the ancient tradition of viewing and celebrating blossom - with its #BlossomWatch campaign.

The conservation charity piloted #BlossomWatch last year when the country had just entered lockdown.  And, with thousands capturing and sharing images of trees in bloom across social media platforms, and four million views in the first two weeks, the Trust is now making it an annual tradition, asking people to share the joy and hope that the sight of blush-tinted blooms will bring to help lift spirits and enable everyone to celebrate nature together.

A growing body of evidence suggests that moments each day noticing nature are vital for wellbeing and building a closer connection with nature, and further evidence also suggests that people derive many of the benefits from online engagement.  Therefore, the Trust is asking people to celebrate blossom, to ‘turn social media pink, white and green’ over the coming weeks, to mark one of ‘nature’s greatest spectacles’.

New research by Professor Miles Richardson, who leads the University’s Nature Connectedness Research Group, conducted with the National Trust, and published in the International Journal of Wellbeing, shows that it’s not the amount of time that is spent in nature that makes the biggest difference, but moments can make a real difference to feelings of wellbeing, along with simple activities.

Moments in nature can help people recover from the stresses and strains of the pandemic

Professor Miles Richardson
University of Derby

Professor Richardson explained: “The results confirm an emerging and important finding: that connection to and simple engagement with nature brings benefits over and above those derived from simply spending a certain amount of time in nature.

“When measured alongside simply noticing nature, we found that time in nature was not a significant predictor of wellbeing.  Neither was indirect contact with nature or knowledge or the study of nature. 

“Nature connectedness and engaging with nature through simple activities like smelling wildflowers  consistently emerged as being the significant and prominent factors in explaining mental health and wellbeing.  Therefore spending a few moments looking at and enjoying blossom can have a surprising impact on feelings of wellbeing.”

Professor Richardson continued: “Moments in nature can help people recover from the stresses and strains of the pandemic. When looking at how time, connection and noticing explain wellbeing, simply tuning into and having a close relationship with nature explained around 40 per cent of levels of wellbeing, whereas time in nature alone explained one per cent. 

“There's a need for greater public understanding that a close connection with nature is a key component of a worthwhile life, a sustainable life – a good life.”

Findings in a recent YouGov poll, commissioned by the Trust, revealed that over a third (36 per cent) of adults said that compared to the first lockdown, that they were more aware of the changing seasons.  And, nearly half (49 per cent) of adults said they have found this lockdown harder than the first, giving a heightened sense of anticipation for this coming spring.

The National Trust has called for a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic, and says that planners, policy-makers and NGOs must seize on the opportunity of increased nature connection across the population, given its proven links to people’s health and wellbeing, as the nation starts to resume pre-pandemic habits and lifestyles.

Simon Toomer, plant conservation specialist at the National Trust, said: “Blossom watching is a simple pleasure that can help lift our spirits over the next few months.  It can be seen on city streets, in gardens, public parks, throughout the countryside and even out of the window, for some lucky people.

“Our recent poll revealed a massive boost in people’s everyday connection with nature since lockdowns began.  And that blossom is the aspect of nature adults are most likely to stop and notice, after the sight of a sunset, the feeling of sun on your face and birdsong.  It is also the fourth most likely natural event adults would view and share on social media, alongside sunsets, sunrises and the sea/river/stream.  Results also revealed that 90 per cent of adults said they can see a tree from their window. 

“Even if a small percentage of these are blossom trees, we hope many will be able to enjoy this year’s blossom spectacle even from their windows.”

To get involved simply take and share imagery using #BlossomWatch.

The Trust is also launching a blossom map this year to record blossom sightings across the country.  For further information, to donate towards our tree planting ambitions, and inspiration visit