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The legend of Poppyland and The Garden of Sleep

Craske's Tower, Poppyland, NorfolkThe writer and journalist, Clement Scott, is generally believed to have first coined the term, ‘Poppyland’ in 1885. Following the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway at Cromer in 1877, Scott made a visit to north Norfolk and strolled from Cromer westwards along the cliff tops.

He eventually ventured beyond Overstrand and discovered a tower overhanging the cliffs, surrounded with graves and poppies. On a beautiful sunny day, the scene must have been extremely picturesque and became the inspiration behind his verse, ‘A Summer Song’.

In the verse Clement refers to the tower and its surroundings as ‘The Garden of Sleep’ in his ‘Poppyland’. And so the legend of Poppyland was born.

What Scott has actually discovered was the abandoned tower of St Michael’s Church, Sidestrand. The church nave had been moved inland (to its present site – see photo further below), brick by brick. A new tower was constructed.

The abandoned tower became known as Craske’s Tower, named after the Overstrand brick-layer who had built it (following the fall of the original tower in a storm in 1841). Interestingly, the new tower, which can still be visited today) was modelled on the ‘pre-Craske’ version and so bears little resemblance to the tower we often see pictured in old photographs and post cards (as above).

Clement Scott and Norfolk poppies‘A Summer Song’ by Clement Scott.

On the grass of the cliff, at the edge of the steep,
God planted a garden – a garden of sleep!
‘Neath the blue of the 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 my Poppyland cometh in sight.
In music of distance, with eyes that are wet,
It is there I remember, and there I forget!
Oh! 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 Poppyland, Sleep!

In my garden of sleep, where red poppies are spread,
I wait for the living, along 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?
Oh! 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 by the Deep!
Sleep, my Poppyland, Sleep!

The photograph below shows the likely location of Poppyland today – on the beach!

Photo taken between the groynes of Overstrand and Trimingham.

The most likely location of Poppyland today - on the beach between Overstrand and Trimmingham

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