top of page

The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

It's Oh So Quiet


High summer is our quietest time for birdsong and during this last week in July even the blackbirds and song thrushes stop singing. The silence is deceptive though, as bird populations are actually at their highest; the birds are just trying to remain inconspicuous to protect newly-fledged young or are foraging further away from their home territory now they’ve finished breeding.

We’re close to open fields here in Waterfurlong and can still hear the occasional song of the yellowhammers, with their characteristic seven notes 'A little bit of bread and no CHEESE' and the chattering families of goldfinches, flocking to ripening seed-heads and once in a while alighting on our dahlia stakes. Sometimes, we’ll catch the yaffle of a green woodpecker, hopping along searching for ants or calling across the Welland valley. Constant, if unusually quiet, companions at this time of year are our juvenile robins, sitting on the trug as we weed or waiting for crumbs from our sandwiches.

One of the few birds that doesn't pipe down is the wood pigeon, with whom we gardeners enjoy a mixed relationship

at best. Its incessant hoo-HOO-HOO-hoo-hooing, flapping and bustling in the hawthorn and lilac bushes is a reminder of the covetous eye it is casting over almost everything in the vegetable patch. One of our long-standing gardeners, Graham, lost 200 pea seedlings in a single evening when a pigeon got into his greenhouse, and colonies have taken to roosting in the tops of the plum trees, breaking branches and scattering the developing fruit.

By contrast, it's an absolute delight to watch swallows swooping over the land catching insects, sometimes as low as two feet above the ground. Ornithologist Peter Conway describes their cry as ‘like a child’s squeaky bath toy being rapidly squeezed.’ They won't be with us for long so we're enjoying them while we can.