Poppies, Barges and Hippothames

Another day when I have meetings in London, but this time Lynnie joins me for the trip so that we can combine work and pleasure. From the moment that the first poppies appeared at the Tower of London Lynnie has said that she wanted to join the masses and pay a visit. Now with time running out she joins me on the train from Salisbury to Waterloo.


Over the weekend we have heard tales of the huge crowds and congestion at the Tower of London and indeed when we exit the tube it is chaos. The crowd is not like a football crowd, there people know where they are going and have a sense of purpose. Here people are happy to amble and are getting confused about where they should be, desperate to see poppies they head for the closest point where they might catch a glimpse.


We seek to avoid the masses and give them a wide berth and head further around the Tower to get a better view. This art installation has been much written and talked about, but it still does not prepare us for our first view of the sea of poppies.

Called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” the poppies have been created to mark 100 hundred years since Britain’s first day of full involvement in the First World War. The first poppy was placed on 17th July and then on a daily basis more have been added. When complete there will be 888,264 poppies around the Tower. It is sobering to think that each of these poppies represents a lost life, a British military fatality in World War I.


After our walk along the Thames Embankment by the Tower we go under Tower Bridge and into St. Katherine’s Dock. It is interesting that few from the massive crowds around the Tower will wander the few hundred yards to the Dock, yet here the Gloriana is moored, the Queens rowbarge that featured prominently during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.


Gloriana is an eighteen oared rowbarge based on the Thames ceremonial rowbarges from the 18th century. As you would expect it is finally decorated in gold leaf. Having seen pictures of the barge as it travelled down the Thames I am amazed at how small it is. Only 88 feet long and 11 feet wide and apparently the coach interior is just 20 feet by 10 feet 6 inches.


Moored alongside the Gloriana is a bizarre sight. Lynnie and I debate what it is and then spot the information board. This is HippoThames a 21 metre long wooden floating sculpture created by Dutchman Florentijn Hofman. Apparently Hofman’s previous well-known work was a 26 metre high inflatable yellow rubber duck!

Further around the dock we come across the Thames Sailing Barges, you may recall that we encountered an impressive collection of these barges back in May when we walked to Maldon from Little Baddow near Chelmsford.


Our next stop is my favourite restaurant in London Ciao Bella in Lamb Conduit Street. From here I head to meetings, whilst Lynnie visits the British Museum for the afternoon.


Heading back to Salisbury, we are both glad that we took the time to visit the Poppies at the Tower, a genuinely moving experience. But also pleased that we have packed so much more into the day.

3rd November 2014

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2014)

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