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Poppyland

Poppy Land is a term that was coined in the 19th Century by the poet and theatre critic Clement Scott and generally refers to the section of the North Norfolk coast from Sheringham to Mundesley.

Poppyland

Poppyland

Clement Scott

Clement Scott

Scott first visited the area in 1883 courtesy of the new railway line from Norwich to Cromer. Disembarking at Cromer, he was unable to secure accommodation and so walked along the coast to Overstrand and Sidestrand. Here he found accommodation at the Mill House and, by accident, discovered the rural idyll he was searching for.

The Mill House at Sidestrand

His subsequent letters to the Daily Telegraph and his book Poppy-Land - Papers Descriptive on the East Coast (1886) helped to popularise this unspoilt section of Norfolk and many other Victorians followed in his footsteps.

The actual term 'Poppyland' first appeared in Scott's poem The Garden of Sleep - which was composed in Sidestrand churchyard. The church was situated close to the cliff edge and its tower finally toppled onto the beach in 1916. The current church at Sidestrand was rebuilt in 1881 using flint from the original church. However, a new tower was constructed which was a replica of the original 15th century octagon. The miller's daughter who Scott fell in love with - Louie Jermy - is buried in the graveyard of the church.
 

The Garden of Sleep

On the grass of the cliff, at the edge of the steep,
God planted a garden - a garden of sleep!
'Neath the blue of sky, in the green of the corn,
It is there that the regal red poppies are born!
Brief days of desire, and long dreams of delight,
They are mine when Poppy-Land cometh in sight.
In music of distance, with eyes that are wet,
It is there I remember, and there I forget!
O! heart of my heart! where the poppies are born,
I am waiting for thee, in the hush of the corn.
     Sleep!     Sleep!
                   From the Cliff to the Deep!
                                 Sleep, my Poppy-Land,
                                                Sleep!

In my garden of sleep, where red poppies are spread,
I wait for the living, alone with the dead!
For a tower in ruins stands guard o'er the deep,
At whose feet are green graves of dear women asleep!
Did they love as I love, when they lived by the sea?
Did they wait as I wait, for the days that may be?
Was it hope or fulfilling that entered each breast,
Ere death gave release, and the poppies gave rest?
O! life of my life! on the cliffs by the sea,
By the graves in the grass, I am waiting for thee!
     Sleep!     Sleep!
                   In the Dews of the Deep!
                                Sleep, my Poppy-Land,
                                               Sleep!
 


There is a memorial water trough to Scott in Cromer which bears the inscription: 'Who by his pen immortalised PoppyLand'.

Clement Scott Memorial

Clement Scott memorial, Cromer

Scott wasn't a particularly inspired poet and his poems are often simple or overly influenced by Swinburne, but his writing helped to kick-start the Norfolk tourist industry. Today however, fields of poppies are less common due to modern farming techniques.

The railway line which brought the early tourists to Poppy land is still operated by British Rail as far as Sheringham but then becomes a heritage line (the North Norfolk railway) from Sheringham to Holt. This part of the line was axed during the 1960s by Dr Beeching. It is often referred to today as the 'Poppy Line'.

Poppyland still attracts holidaymakers - but resorts like Cromer do now exude an air of decayed grandeur. However, I'm sure that Scott would still recognise the area - even if it has turned partly into the 'Bungalow Land' that he feared.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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