The Bristol cherry blossom tree

We’ve lived in south Bristol for a decade now. I’d been to this side of Bristol often before to play football with friends in Arnos Court park on what used to be an absolutely abysmal pot-holed pitch. However, when it came to house hunting, my wife and I decided the area by it was an excellent spot to set up camp permanently.

Not long after the move, we decided to get ourselves a dog. Ideally a normal waggy-tailed dog, excellent at walking, not greedy at all, without any ridiculous characteristics. Instead we got ourselves a Barney. He is most definitely not a regular dog. A lunatic French bulldog.

As part of the deal we had with Barney, we had to walk him daily (not his favourite pastime – which is eating).

Walkies

Luckily for us there are lots of great places to walk around this side of Bristol, so I’d get to know Victoria Park, Redcatch Park, Perrett’s Park all very well.

I then remembered my local park – Arnos Court, tucked away down the hill, and I started wandering down there too.

I remember noticing the first time I walked down there that there was an interestingly steep hill directly opposite, with a pretty looking tree and bench positioned at the top. Lovely I thought.

I came back here again and again, before noticing (it wasn’t hard to notice) the ridiculously pretty blossom that would accompany said tree once Spring arrived. My eyes certainly noticed – they filled up with water and I sneezed a lot.

It was spectacular, so I pulled out my phone and took lots of images of Barney rolling around in front of it.

A year later, our boy arrived. Barney went into sentry position. I was awake a lot during the early hours, of course. However I got to glimpse something I hadn’t really noticed before – sunrise. Out the window, I would see glorious mist inversions, and so I decided Barney would appreciate a really early walk so I could investigate this further.

I started taking phone pics, which then became camera pics, and I then realised I actually quite enjoyed this photography malarky.

I begun wandering the streets of Bristol early in the morning, finding new locations, and returning to new favourite spots (hello Clifton Suspension Bridge and Ashton Court).

I forgot about the blooming cherry tree.

That year…

And then it was 2020. A terrible year.

A few weeks before Covid found its way across the globe, I lost my father. It was a horrible moment in my life. However, before I had time to really grieve, we were suddenly informed of impending doom across the country – and not long after followed the nationwide lockdown.

All my attention was on my son then, and making sure he was ok. He was at nursery, having just lost a grandad and was being told he could no longer see his friends.

Whilst the government and their friends were partying and being incompetent, we were sticking to the rules and trying not to get sick – so I was following the 15 minute daily outing rule. This meant that I had to find somewhere close by for walkies, and if I had time, somewhere to continue taking photos.

People often say photography is great for mental health, and it was during lockdown that this really became the case for me.

It was soon April, and with it brought a lot of blossom. So I knew where to go. I needed to clear my head.

The cherry tree

Having already taken hundreds of images of the hill over the years, I knew it would make quite a nice composition – so I persuaded my son (and Barney) to get up at a ridiculous time and head down with me for sunrise. It was a beautiful pastel sunrise at that as well. Clutching his camera – a KidiZoom (what a beast of a camera…) – we galloped off down the hill.

My son hurtled right up the hill to the tree, Barney in hot pursuit, and he stood there, camera in hand looking up at the tree. Barney marked his territory (of course), before sitting there wondering what the hell I was doing further down the hill. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few photos, hoping for non-blurry, properly exposed images.

By some incredible luck, they actually were.

I took lots more photos, and posted these to Instagram first. A few days after, I posted the image of my son and Barney stood under the tree. I spent ages trying to think of an apt caption for it – I was pretty choked up during that morning, it was quite an emotional moment for me and I felt like I’d actually captured something pretty special.

I thought it would do ok, but it actually blew up quite massively. The image really struck a chord with people during what was such an awful period of time for everyone. It was my biggest post by a country mile, and it snowballed, getting picked up by the BBC and many others. I had dozens of print orders off the back of it, which was nice as I’d rarely sold any prints before.

The biggest impact for me was the reaction I’d had from other people – I had lots of nice messages from people not just locally, but also from across the world. There were a few people who messaged to say they had also recently lost family members and it had given them some kind of emotional relief. I was inundated with requests for the location and since then, other photographers have ventured there during Spring to capture it too.

I decided I would recreate a similar image each year after that to show the passage of time. So here we are, 4 years later and I’ve just taken the 5th version! My editing has changed quite a bit during that time, and the composition is ever so slightly different (complicated by the park changing very slightly from the camera position – they added a path down the side). The tree itself has changed.

2020-2024

I also wanted to capture the tree during the change of seasons and try a few other things too. I had lots of ideas buzzing around my head. Could I capture the tree in every weather condition going? Can I capture all 4 seasons? How about images at night? What about drone light-painting it – or just light-painting it? Comet Neowise arrived and as it turned out, it was in just the right part of the sky too, so that was ticked off as well.

What’s left? I’ve got a couple of big ones to tick off – I won’t say what they are, but they’ll be excellent additions if I can get them…

And then of course there will be my regular image in April 2025…

Here are just some of the other images I’ve captured since 2020.

Have you visited the Arnos Court cherry tree yet? I’d love to hear if you have! Drop a comment below. Don’t forget to tag me in your posts on social media if you do visit, I’d love to see what you capture.

If you’d like a print of the first cherry tree image, please click here.

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