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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

Our Apple For August: Manx Codlin

Manx Codlin is an unusual find in the East Midlands and our single Waterfurlong tree is the only one of its variety known in the Stamford area. It has taken a bad hit this summer, losing one of its main branches as a result of drought combined with a heavy crop of fruit. Fortunately, Denis Smith of the Stamford Community Orchard Group has already taken a graft of the tree, which has a reputation for being short-lived.

Manx or Manks Codlin was raised by James Kewley in his father's garden at Ballanard on the Isle of Man. It first fruited in 1815 and was presented to the London Horticultural Society collection in 1826. A reliable, early, cooking apple, Manx Codlin was mainly grown in the north-west and in Scotland.

The sweetest of the codlins, it needs to be picked and used in late summer. Its perfumed flesh breaks down quickly when cooked, making it excellent for purées and sauces. It is also good baked.

The medium-sized fruit is conical and slightly angular with smooth, greenish-yellow skin that sometimes blushes pink or orangey-red in the sun. The flesh is creamy-white, firm, and juicy.

Manx Codlin forms a small, compact tree with a spreading habit and pretty, very scented blossom. It does well on exposed sites and poor soil and tolerates both a cold climate and heavy rainfall. It needs a pollinator to set fruit - good choices include Keswick Codlin, Lord Lambourne and Ribston Pippin.


Civil engineer James Kewley, the son of John and Elizabeth Kewley of Ballanard near Douglas, was baptised at Braddan on 28 September 1783. The farmhouse James grew up in had been in his father's family for nearly three hundred years.

James had a remarkable range of talents and interests. He invented and manufactured 'the patented Hydropneumatic Apparatus for heating hothouses, conservatories, churches, dwelling houses &c', which was installed in Kew Gardens' early plant houses. A fluent Manx speaker, James also proof-read the 1819 Manx Bible for the British and Foreign Bible Society.(1)

James Kewley's Manx Codlin apple was especially valued on his home island because of the dearth of fruit growing there. English traveller John Feltham wrote in 1798 'The better kinds of fruit are not to be had. Major Taubman's was the only walled garden I observed, and that would grace any place. Apples are not grown in any quantity.'(2)


Recipe from an 18th century Manx cookery book in the Phyllis D Wood collection.(3)


(1) The Kewley Collection, the Manx Museum, Douglas, Isle of Man.

(2) A Tour Through the Isle of Mann by John Feltham, 1798.

(3) Report on the Role of Local Food in Manx Culture by Anne Connor and Catriona Mackie, Liverpool University Centre for Manx Studies, March 2013

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

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