Tower of London Poppies – Final Dawn (12.11.14)

This morning was the ‘final dawn’ of the Tower of London Remembrance art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

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Although I, like many Londoners, have watched as the sea-scape of poppies has grown in size over the months, I decided this morning to make my final visit and record the one and only dawn over the whole completed exhibition. Since the last of the poppies was ceremoniously planted yesterday at 11am on 11 November (Armistice Day), and the first batch of poppies are being dismantled, packed and parcelled today, this morning’s dawn was indeed a unique moment.

The photos in this blog were all taken between 6am and 7.30am today, 12 November 2014.

The decidedly cold, yet calm, pre-dawn skies allowed the Tower’s soft lighting to catch the sea of 888,246 blood-red poppies at its most gentle. At first there were no more than a few other onlookers and the sense of pre-sunrise calm was almost tangible; the poppies were crystal clean and in touching distance.

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As other onlookers, photographers, tourists and early commuters began to arrive, the heavens opened, drenching one and all at the point of sunrise at 7.15am. By the time I had walked around the eastern walls, via the north bank of Tower Bridge Tower, the poppies to the south of the Tower appeared to float in the moat’s flood water.

This truly remarkable display has captivated people across the globe. As the world’s press reported the progress of the installation, we at Nomadic Thoughts, while dealing with our overseas business colleagues (in all five continents), have been asked not only if we have seen the poppies, but how impressive it is ‘live’.

As one of our South American colleagues told us, ‘It looks beautiful…. everyone going to, or living in London is so lucky’. Equally our African business partners said, ‘It’s the biggest tourist attraction in the world at the moment’.

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While I have always agreed that the Tower of London is magnificent in its own right (see my previous blog ‘Tower of London By Night’), I have to agree it does feel extra special at present, creating a ‘must see’ buzz across the country. The race against time before it is dismantled has caused enormous crowds, hour-long bottlenecks and swathes of personal memorials around the Tower. Politicians, the press and people from all over the world have clamoured for the exhibition to be extended.

In vain though. When speaking to a Beefeater this morning, who proudly said he had personally planted over 3,000 poppies, I was told that even though the work of art, created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, has grown in size, stature and significance over the past months, it cannot last, and must follow the artist’s original brief. The brief was that, in order for the emotional impact of the 888,246 poppies (each representing a British fatality during the war) to be fully appreciated, the dismantling of the encircling sea of flowers should be started poppy-by-poppy the day after the last one was ‘planted’.

Tower of London west moat night patrol.

Tower of London west moat night patrol.

Hence today’s unique dawn over the completed exhibit, one hundred years after the beginning of the War to supposedly end all wars.

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Floating south bank moat.

Floating south bank moat.

Taking down operation starting.

7.30am – beginning of the dismantling.

Poppies, leaves & coins - south moat.

Poppies, leaves & coins – south moat.

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