Story of the Poppy

Why we have the blue poppy as the camp site logo…


Our Camp site’s logo is the Tibetan Blue Poppy Meconopsis baileyii, not just because it is one of the most attractive poppies, but because of the family connection to its discovery and classification under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.


The Tibetan Blue Poppy was identified first by Col. F.M. Bailey (1882-1967) who was a soldier, spy, political administrator, linguist, explorer, a keen naturalist and author amongst other things, with a history of amazing adventures.

Relevant to the poppy is the hazardous expedition with Capt. H.T. Moreshead (working for The Survey of India) through extremely rugged country in the Himalaya to establish whether the Tsangpo river flowed into the Brahmaputra River (in that pre-Google Earth era this was a serious gap in European strategic knowledge).


There are many stories worth telling about Col. Bailey, one very memorable one being that he was hired by the military counter-espionage service in Tashkent in Turkestan – now Uzbekistan – where in 1918-1920 he was working under-cover gathering political intelligence just after the Bolsheviks took power.  Tasked with locating a notorious British spy named Bailey (i.e. himself!) he went into hiding in the mountains. That in itself was a story of great bravery, Bailey at one point breaking a leg in deep snow, having to adopt many disguises, and move on frequently for months. Eventually he effected a 1000-mile escape to Persia by steam train and then across the Karakum desert on horse-back.

As with a lot of his work, a main political purpose opened up opportunities for his scientific curiosity and collecting. His sample of the Tibetan Poppy (collected near Lunang, in the Rong Chu valley, Kongbo at 10,500 ft in S.E Tibet) enabled the flower to be classified for the first time as a distinct species. However, by one description the material was “Little more than a flower stuffed into a notebook” which led to the original classification being challenged, until firmly re-established after much detailed work in the early 2000’s.

Frederick (‘Eric’) Bailey was educated at Edinburgh Academy, Wellington and Sandhurst. He joined the Indian Army and served at Flanders and Gallipoli in the 1st World War. He served as a Political Officer in Mesopotamia and Persia (at which stage he was sent to Tashkent) and held various significant posts in the Indian colonial administration. His last job, during the 2nd World War, was as Queens’ Messenger to Central and South America.

Frederick Bailey

He married the Hon. Irma Cozens-Hardy and retired to Stiffkey in Norfolk.

Honours include the Royal Geographical Society’s Gill Memorial award and their Gold Medal, and the Livingstone Gold Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

He was made Companion of the Indian Empire in 1915.

He wrote about some of his work and adventures in books including “Mission to Tashkent”, “No Passport to Tibet” and “China-Tibet-Assam”.

The Walled Garden has Blue Poppies in various places and we hope to grow the collection while the gardens develop as a home to Ruberslaw Wild Woods Camping


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