Wednesday 22 October 2014

Planting Poppies at the Tower of London

A few weeks ago I got up early and headed into London to take part in a very special project: planting ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London as part of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. 

You've probably heard about the Tower Poppies by now. 888,246 poppies are being planted in the moat, commemorating the British and Colonial fatalities in the First World War. Of course, such a large project requires lots of volunteers!

I arrived early with plenty of time to see how the sea of poppies had grown since I visited in the summer. The area around the Tower is usually buzzing with people so it was great to have a chance to to stand and look at all the poppies in the quiet of the early morning.  


After signing in for my shift, I and the other volunteers got kitted out with gloves, a "volunteer" t-shirt and a badge. We watched a video about safety on site and how to make the poppies, then headed out into the moat to start work. 


I was a teeny bit nervous about volunteering on my own, but the nerves soon went away after chatting to some of the other volunteers. Everyone was very friendly and just as excited as me to be taking part. Some  had signed up on their own or in pairs and others had come along in groups from local offices.

Constructing the poppies was hard work! We added washers and other components to each "stalk" (these were a very tight fit!) then carefully added the poppy flower and end cap and set the finished poppy aside for planting later. 


We worked in little groups in the sunshine, chatting about the installation and how incredible it was: the scale of it, how beautiful each poppy was and how amazing they looked all together, and - of course - about the meaning behind it.


Each of the hundreds of poppies we put together and planted that day represents one human life lost in a terrible conflict. Seeing a number like 888,246 written down it's just a number and almost impossible to visualise. The sea of poppies in this installation conveys the scale of the devastation in such a simple but powerful way.


Everyone was quietly in awe of the installation and really proud to be taking part in such a special, meaningful thing. I feel very lucky to have been just a small part of it. It was an amazing feeling looking down at the poppies when walking back to the Tube after my shift was over, thinking "I planted some of those!" 

The final ceramic poppy will be planted in the moat on November 11th.

After that the poppies will be "picked" by more volunteers (you can sign up here if you're interested) then washed and sent to the people who have purchased them. All the poppies have now been sold but you can still make a dedication or a donation via the Tower of London's website. 


You can watch a great video about the installation of the poppies here.

If you've not yet been to see this installation and have the chance to do so, take it!



Moois van mie said...


Ariadne said...

So so beautiful! Congratulations for taking part!AriadnefromGreece!

LandGirl1980 said...

What an amazing thing to be a part of. I didn't realise you could volunteer to plant them - but I did buy one last week (just in time it seems!).

Jane said...

It was amazing when we saw in in August can't imagine how vast it is now. An amazing thing to be part of for you. We bought one looking forward to getting it when the display ends.

Christine M said...

It must be an amazing thing to see. Just the photos are amazing.

Bugs and Fishes said...

LandGirl1980 - yes, I think there must have been a big rush of people buying them after the Queen visited! Luckily we managed to buy a couple before they sold out.

Jane - I went back again this week and it's even bigger still! It's been amazing seeing it grow and grow.

MomWaldsPlace said...


bairozan said...

Volunteering is more gratifying than anything else! This is a very emotional project with an impressive organization behind it!

Bugs and Fishes said...

bairozan - yes, volunteering is a wonderful thing - nothing quite like it!