Circumstances have meant that I was not able to join the overnight queues to Westminster Hall for HM the late Queen’s lying in state. But I wanted to be there, somewhere. So, I ventured along to Hyde Park Corner and, with some difficulty, made entrance into the West end of Green Park …. then, along with substantial crowds, made my way into the core of the Park, which felt rather different as a good part was high-fenced/screened.
However, towards the shallow valley (former channel of the River Tyburn) there appeared to our left an enclosed area with many thousands of flowers laid out – some in clear patterns and shapes. others massed around tree trunks and, occasionally, along lower branches. A couple of areas were also set aside for candles.
This of course was a necessary part of the massively planned works and efforts to maintain respect, dignity and participation for a deeply affected and caring public. It was clearly necessary to make sure that the main precincts of Buckingham Palace and The Mall would remain unobstructed for the many movements during these few days leading up to the State Funeral. So Royal Parks were obliged, with dignity, to remove spontaneously placed bouquets and messages from these locations and place them as a mass floral tribute within this designated part of Green Park (and a further area made available near The Dell in Hyde Park).
Thus, many people who, like me, were not able to join the 5 mile/11 hour queue to Westminster Hall, but wished to make their own small pilgrimage and mark with respect to this enormous event, could come here freely – amongst community – and witness the powerful scene and quiet emotions.
There are of course also many written messages, cards, sketches, portraits and soft toys including numerous Paddington Bears – all of which adds a bit more pressure for Royal Parks when they come to dispose of the displays – provisionally a few days after the funeral. The flowers will go to compost, written tributes will be dried and archived, but plastics and other items will need to be removed separately.
All of this of course had to be anticipated and planned. I understand that Guild member, Dennis Clarke, in his former capacity as Head of Park Services and being part of a large team, made up of many organisations, would have spent long hours preparing and reviewing these provisions and activities. This would have been amongst a whole range of operational plans which had to be ready and which went into place with such rapidity and efficiency. It really has been a remarkable exercise of all the corporate bodies involved, including government, emergency services, police, NGOs, Royal Parks and the military, working in tandem with the Royal Household – maintaining dignity, protocol and accessibility.
From Green Park, I made my way out of the Park and – like many – walked along the North side the Mall [ which was still railed and secured for operational movements. There were volunteers and security along the way to help and direct; and most people crossed over the Mall opposite the Duke of York’s Steps to return along or within the Park, making a welcome circuit . There seemed to be much relief and appreciation of these spaces and movement. The Royal Parks delivering again!
We are so lucky to have them and to be able to use them with such diversity.
Alternative homage observed by Guild member, Richard Flenley