When I was sixteen, I met an old lady who had worked in service with a wealthy family. She said she had stayed with them annually in Norfolk before the First World War at a place called Poppyland.
When years later I moved to Norfolk, I enjoyed finding out more about Poppyland and where those long passed-on people had spent their summer holidays. Popularized by Clement Scott's well-known poem 'The Garden of Sleep' that includes the line 'it is there the regal red poppies are born' he describes them strewn across the cliffs of North Norfolk. The conjured vision helped set people in their thousands journeying to the coast to witness the sight for themselves.
Sheringham, Mundesley, Overstrand and Sidestrand became popular summer destinations at the turn of the century, easily reachable on the newly opened rail link from Norwich to Cromer. The original line closed in 1964 but the North Norfolk Railway is a heritage line that runs between Holt and Sheringham and is often referred to as the 'Poppy Line'.
The poppy flower symbolises, sleep, peace and blood and was already prominent in peoples' minds by its association with 'In Flanders Fields' and the poignant words of John McRae beginning 'In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row...'
So, it was quite a shock to Norfolk when in 2002 Plantsman magazine allocated Alexanders
as the county flower of Norfolk while the poppy was assigned to Essex! After a bit of a furore
erupted, there was a change of mind and the much-loved poppy became the emblem for
Here is a song I wrote a while ago about my poppies. I was born in Essex and live in Norfolk so am doubly privileged you see!
Poppyland, oh, Poppyland! Scarlet ribbons cross the land, Set between the earth and sky - beguiling those who pass you by, To watch unfold in rising sun, Red-lipped kisses that the dawn began.
Poppyland, oh Poppyland, From Mundesley up to Sheringham, Painted fields are our delight - We travelled far to see the sight. Came to the East our eyes to feast - Vermilion bright in flaming light of Norfolk's summer sun.
Grime of cities left behind - No poppy-fields we there could find! From towns of brick and sooted street, We sought to find a sight to keep Within our hearts, within our minds, A memory winter could not fade A riot of gold and red and jade.
Poppyland, oh Poppyland, From Mundesley up to Sheringham, Transformation taking place - From winter cold to summer red and gold - Brocade that no man could make - Poppies scarlet, cockle blue, barley gold and daisies too.
All who seek the carnival, All who walk the poppy-fields, All whose days were coloured bright, Never will forget the sight Poppy-fields in Poppyland, Sown by nature, tilled by man.
From Mundesley up to Sheringham. Times long past when we travelled the line, Scarlet fields our journey's end, A living painting the earth creates, where red silk petals gleam and shake, On cliff-tops high above the sand, scarlet pennants o-er the strand.
P.S. If you're interested, you can read about Alexanders on another page.
North Norfolk Railway - The Poppy Line