My 92-year-old mum is disabled so a visit to The Tower of London’s ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ wasn’t an option. Today we headed off with her to Portsmouth to the Royal Armouries’ Fort Nelson to see Poppies:Wave, the last stop on the #PoppiesTour.
Wave is the sculpture which was the key dramatic element of the 2014 Tower installation. An arc of crimson flowers which, over time, was transformed into a field of poppies planted by volunteers, each one representing a British life lost at the Front in the First World War.
It captured the imagination of a nation and was visited by more than 5 million people, who watched on, emotional and with hushed respect .
Whilst this tour version is just a small part of that bigger picture sculpture, and not in its historic, iconic Tower location, it is worth a visit.
Fort Nelson is a fully restored Victorian fort with 19 acres of ramparts, secret underground tunnels, and bunkers and is home to one of the most infamous pieces of 20th century artillery, the Iraqi Supergun.
The Fort, with the poppies display makes for a great free picnic outing for this last weekend of the school Easter holidays. There is even a dedicated picnic area as well as a cafe. In fact, it’s better for kids than it is for disabled visitors.
Efforts had been made to make the exhibition site as accessible as possible but, in all honesty, it isn’t great for wheelchair access unless you have a very strong wheelchair driver! Nonetheless my mum loved it, quoting John McRae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ verbatim.
The attraction is free although the charge for parking is £3. As a disabled visitor there was no charge although you are encouraged, quite rightly, to make a donation.
Fort Nelson sits on top of Portsdown Hill overlooking the Solent and views from the top of the hill are spectacular and worth a visit for those who have never been.
Just down the road is a pub, The Churchillian for those looking for a pub lunch in the warm rather than a picnic option. It’s years since we’ve been there but it might be worth checking out. Or head over into Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays for a host of places to have lunch or a coffee.
The installation at Fort Nelson is open to the public from Friday 13 April until Sunday 24 June 2018, 10am to 5pm. You can view a video preview of the exhibition from the Portsmouth News.
In Flanders Fields, John McRae
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.