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Colourful poppy display transforms castle for Remembrance Day

Thousands of knitted and crocheted poppies have delicately handmade by Strathaven residents.

Remembrance: Thousands of poppies were handcrafted by the anonymous group.
Remembrance: Thousands of poppies were handcrafted by the anonymous group. Stewart Daniels / cropped

At Strathaven Castle, an explosion of red and green has erupted on to its metal gates to highlight Remembrance Day.

Sprawling over the fence and down the stone walls are thousands of knitted and crocheted poppies, delicately handmade by local residents over the last ten weeks.

One evening the castle in the South Lanarkshire town was bare, the next morning it was transformed into a colourful display by the village's combat crocheters and knitting ninjas.

The anonymous group of 13 crafters created more than 5500 handcrafted poppies and volunteers of up 40 people helped bring the project together.

"Despite preconceived ideas we're not all grey-haired weak old ladies sitting knitting in a corner, most of us are in our 40s," explains one of the knitting ninjas.

"One wee laddie was only five, he helped to tie on the poppies and our oldest lady was about 80 so it's multi-generational."

The group began during the summer to celebrate Strathaven's gala week, yarn bombing the town with miles of knitted bunting in the middle of the night.

More than 5500 poppies were handcrafted over ten weeks.
More than 5500 poppies were handcrafted over ten weeks. Stewart Daniels

Determined to mark Remembrance Day in a similar way, the group looked to other craft projects and installations across the UK for ideas.

"We don't do anything other than the standard memorial service at our war memorial, we don't really do anything else beyond that," say the group.

"So we pulled some of our team together to see if they fancied doing something for remembrance."

The group say its installation is inspired by the Weeping Willow and Wave sculptures by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper.

Created in 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the cascading ceramic poppies and arching flower heads on towering stalks were the key elements of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London.

The Weeping Willow installation at the Tower of London was inspiration for the group.
The Weeping Willow installation at the Tower of London was inspiration for the group. Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

Some 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies were created to honour those killed during the conflict and the initial exhibition was visiting by more than five million people.

Weeping Window and Wave have since toured the UK, going on display at St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney and at The Black Watch Museum in Perth last year.

For the residents of Strathaven, their tribute to those who lay down their lives for their country has been just as poignant.

"It's captured the imagination of the town, everyone is just thrilled to see it," the group explains.

The knitting ninjas aim to raise money for Poppyscotland with the installation.
The knitting ninjas aim to raise money for Poppyscotland with the installation. Stewart Daniels

"When we see some of the messages, particularly from former service personnel, they are really proud to see this in Strathaven and for us as a wee team we feel we've done the right thing," say the knitters.

The artwork was hung up in the middle of the night on November 5 and its prominent place in the town means it can be viewed from a number of vantage points.

Aiming to raise as much money for Poppyscotland as possible, donation tins have been placed in local businesses around the town and the group are also selling wooden crosses for its memorial garden.

"There used to be [a memorial garden] years ago but we haven't yet found the right person in town to speak to to find out when it stopped being a memorial garden," the ninjas say.

Wooden crosses with knitted poppies help to raise money for the cause.
Wooden crosses with knitted poppies help to raise money for the cause. Steven Daniels

"It's in a pretty accessible part of the town, whereas our war memorial is at the highest point of the town. It's quite a steep hill to get to."

The knitting ninjas' work can be seen up until November 19 before the poppies are cleaned, dried and put away for storage.

The memorial crosses can the be picked up and taken home, otherwise the group will place them at the town's war memorial for all to see.

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