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Visitors to London hoping to find a stunning spectacle that is sure to take their breath away might like to head to the Tower of London, which continues to offer a wealth of excitement for travellers from far and wide.
One of the most standout exhibitions to have been staged at this popular attraction in recent years was the creation of a stunning field of poppies that surrounded the tower; and while the exhibit itself may now have moved on, there remains plenty to find out about the links between poppies and this impressive structure itself.
History behind the Tower of London poppies
The poppy is one of the most striking images of the First World War, with the red blossoms having come to symbolise the millions of people that lost their lives in one of the bloodiest confrontations that has ever been.
Swathes of red poppies peppered the fields of northern France and Belgium, where much of the fighting took place during the Great War. It is for this reason that the poppy has now been assumed as an international symbol of remembrance for those that were lost.
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
It was just two days after the Armistice, on November 18th 1918, that the first poppies were sold as an act of remembrance for those that gave up their lives to protect the freedom of others, and it is an act of celebration and deference that has carried on to this day.
How poppies at the Tower became an attraction
The brainchild of artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, the poppies exhibit at the Tower of London, entitled, Poppies: The Weeping and the Wave, truly captured the nation’s imagination when it was first unveiled in 2014.
A single ceramic poppy was created for every one of the 888,246 men, women and children that lost their lives in British military actions during the First World War, with a field of poppies created to surround the tower in a sea of red.
Describing the installation, Cummins stated: “The idea is that you can see a whole field of poppies that would be transient, like the people that fought – there for a small time and then gone.”
An impressive feat in itself, a total of 30,000 volunteers took part in the planting of the poppies in the run-up to the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014.
Between July 17th and November 11th that year, the famous moat of the Tower of London was gradually filled with thousands upon thousands of ceramic poppies – all handcrafted and painted as an act of remembrance.
Subsequently becoming a place of intense personal reflection and touching introspection, the exhibition aimed to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary and to create a powerful visual commemoration.
When is it on and where can I see it?
Currently undergoing a roving tour of the British Isles, Poppies: The Weeping and the Wave can no longer be seen at the Tower London, but continues to commemorate the thousands of people that gave up their lives in the pursuit of victory during the First World War.
Now touring the UK, locations and dates for the exhibition include:
- St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall (April 22nd to June 12th)
- Lincoln Castle (May 28th to September 4th)
- Caernarfon Castle (October 12th to November 20th)
- The Black Watch Museum, Perth (June 29th to September 25th)
However, visitors to the Tower of London can still catch a glimpse of the spectacle that is the poppies exhibition, with a permanent exhibition commemorating the event and the millions of people that attended this stunning showcase at the time.
Tube travel to the Tower of London
Anyone keen to visit the Tower of London and experience the beauty of the poppies exhibition might like to travel as stress-free as possible via the extensive London Underground network.
Known colloquially as the Tube, there are several nearby stations that visitors might like to make use of:
- Tower Hill (Circle and District lines)
- Aldgate (Circle and Metropolitan lines)
- Aldgate East (District and Hammersmith & City lines)
- Monument (Circle and District lines)
- Liverpool Street Underground (Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines)
In addition, visitors can make use of overground rail services from the nearby stations of Fenchurch Street, Shadwell London Overground and Liverpool Street. There are also regular services to the area via the Docklands Light Rail, with stations including Tower gateway and Shadwell DLR just a short walk away.
Meanwhile, full details of all local public transport options for visitors to the Tower of London and the surrounding area can be found at the official website of Transport for London.
Nearby parking options
For all those that are planning to hire a car and drive in the English capital, the area in the vicinity of the Tower London also offers some fantastic and easy-to-access places to park, such as:
- Minories Car Park (0.4 miles, eight minutes’ travel time on foot)
- Royal Mint Street Car Park (0.4 miles, nine minutes)
- Whitechapel High Street Car Park (0.9 miles, 18 minutes)
- Q-Park Tower Bridge (0.7 miles, 15 minutes)
- The Shard Parking (0.9 miles, 18 minutes)
- Jubilee Place Car Park (0.8 miles, 17 minutes)
- Vintry Car Park (0.7 miles, 13 minutes)
- NCP Car Park London Vintry Thames Exchange (0.7 miles, 13 minutes)
However, individuals planning journeys by car during their time in London are reminded that traffic volumes can be high throughout the day, especially during the busy morning and evening rush hours.
It is therefore advisable for motorists to avoid travelling at this time, while they might also like to pre-book their parking before their departure, as spaces can be limited.
Things to see and do in the area
It’s not just the vibrant displays of poppies and rich heritage of the Tower of London that draws countless crowds to this busy part of the English capital though, as the area is one of the busiest hotspots for tourism in the whole of the UK.
Visitors hoping to see the sights of London and take in the many fine attractions that the city has to offer might also like to check out:
- London Bridge Experience (0.7 miles, 15 minutes’ travel time on foot/via public transport)
- Monument to the Great Fire of London (0.4 miles, seven minutes)
- Tower Bridge (0.5 miles, 11 minutes)
- HMS Belfast (0.8 miles, 16 minutes)
- Design Museum (0.7 miles, 15 minutes)
- 30 St Mary Axe – The Gherkin (0.6 miles, 12 minutes)
- Shakespeare’s Globe (one mile, ten minutes)
- Tate Modern (1.3 miles, 16 minutes)
- The View from the Shard (0.6 miles, 12 minutes)
- London Eye (2.2 miles, 20 minutes)
- The London Dungeon (2.3 miles, 20 minutes)
- Sea Life London Aquarium (2.3 miles, 23 minutes)