The moat of the Tower of London has been transformed into a sea of red. Over the past weeks, 888,246 ceramic poppies have been carefully planted in remembrance of the British and Commonwealth who died during World War I. Entitled the Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, the installation has become a major tourist attraction over the last week, drawing millions of visitors. This panorama of the poppies gives some idea of what the sight and crowds are like.
The final poppies were placed in the moat just a few of days ago, and after the 11th November, Armistice Day, about 8,000 volunteers will begin the process of removing most of them. All the poppies have been sold for £25 each, raising a significant amount of money to be shared between a number of charities related to the armed services.
Every evening, the Last Post has been played at sunset with members of the public allowed to nominate a member of the Commonwealth forces who was killed in the First World War to have their name read out in this nightly ceremony. Each Roll of Honour has been recorded and may be watched online.
The spectacle has been drawing massive crowds as tens of thousands each day have flocked to view the sight. This has led to a request for the exhibition to be extended. The Tower has agreed to extend the lighting period of the Tower, which will now be floodlight until midnight and from 4am each day. However, on the 12th November a team of about 8,000 volunteers will begin removing the poppies and sending them to their buyers.
Some elements of the display will remain in place until the end of November, with the weeping window and wave segments remaining on show until the end of the month. Thereafter, parts of the display including several thousand poppies will begin a tour of the UK which lasts until 2018. After that, parts of the display will be installed in Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester
The artists behind the exhibition are Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. Paul is an inspirational ceramic artist and potters at his studio have been hand-making the poppies using techniques which were utilised by potters during the First World War.
I visited the site early on Saturday 8th November, arriving at about 09:00 to find that the crowds were already building. By 09:30 it was becoming difficult to move, and access to the lower terrace around the moat was very crowded. We basically shuffled along what had become a one-way circuit, which took about 40 minutes to complete. If you are still planning to go and see this then it is probably best to plan to get there before 08:30 am or after 8:00 pm in order to avoid most of the crowds. Naturally, with this much interest, the tubes in the area are all insanely busy, making rush hour look like a walk in the park. It is expected that about 4 million people will visit the site before the end.