Across Britain, the streets come alive with cherry blossom

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"Loveliest of trees," wrote the poet AE Housman a century ago, "the cherry, now, is hung with bloom along the bough..."

He went on to describe a white-blossoming cherry – "wearing white for Eastertide" – but there's no doubt he would have been just as taken with this magnificent pink-blossoming specimen which was on display in a quiet square yesterday in Kensington, London.

But Kensington could have been Bayswater or Hampstead or Chiswick or Islington, for all over the capital, indeed all over much of southern Britain cherry trees are in flower now in quite splendid fashion.

Along the dual carriageway leading up to Twickenham Bridge in south-west London, for example, alternate pink and white cherry trees are giving the appearance of Neapolitan ice cream, while in nearby Kew, the cherry blossom is wonderfully completing the Japanese Landscape section of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

In some areas, the cherries have been flowering much earlier than expected. "The cherry blossom is a really magnificent sight and a great indicator that spring has arrived," said Dominic Price, a spokesman for the UK charity Plantlife. "People usually associate blossom with Easter and it normally flowers in April but in some parts of the country it is four weeks earlier this year.

"The fact that the blossom has come so soon may also mean it will be a good year for cherries, as it kickstarts the whole process of forming fruit earlier."

* Judging has been slightly delayed in the £5,000 essay prize on the future of England's forests sponsored by the Cambridge-based wildlife conservation charity Fauna and Flora International in conjunction with The Independent. The sheer number of entries has meant the process of creating a short list is taking longer than anticipated, but final judging is now set for 3 May and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

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