Every June I make a pilgrimage. I leave the car at Holywell Bay car park and begin a 10k walk. Trudging over sand dunes, ambling along the coast path, fighting the gusts around Kelsey Head and ascending the headland towards Polly Joke.
And here awaits my Mecca. A field of blood glistening in the midday sun.
The flowers stand tall, stretching up towards the warmth. Their delicate papery heads flutter lightly in the breeze, bending coquettishly to reveal their jet-black centres. In amongst this field of crimson, buttery yellow marigolds peep from between the stalks, the vibrant carpet contrasting against the deep blue sky. I sit for hours, listening to the waves break over the shore, watching these blushing ladies as they dance to the will of the wind.
Poppies are an important wildflower; however their numbers are dwindling due to the increasing use of herbicides. In fact, they are one of the fastest disappearing species of wildflowers from British soil. This year we mark the centenary of the Great War, the symbol of which is the bright red wildflower. Yet these flowers are losing their own war against our damaging agricultural methods. 100 years ago, when John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’, wild flower meadows in Britain were not uncommon, the traditional methods of farming helping to promote the natural growth of vitally important species. However our ever-increasing population means that farming methods have had to intensify in order to meet demand, but as a result, our countryside is being decimated. We will all bow our heads at 11am tomorrow to think about those who fought for us, but we need to think about ways in which we can truly honour them. For me, the wreath on my front door and the badge attached to my coat lapel just isn’t enough; we need to engage in our own fight to keep the British countryside happy and healthy. Because otherwise, what was it all for?
Every June I make a pilgrimage. I just have to hope that next June will not be the last.
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.