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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

The Rare, Huge And Odoriferous Goat Moth

In April our gardeners went on a search for the frass (droppings) of the Noble Chafer Beetle, a rare and endangered insect whose few survivors live in traditional orchards. We explored rot holes in the old fruit trees and found no evidence of the beetle that day but did come across several other interesting bugs.

Along with us was local entomologist, Deborah Procter, who has since checked out the grub seen here in gardener Jo's

hand and believes it is most likely the larva (caterpillar) of a Goat Moth, another unusual species associated with traditional orchards.

The Goat Moth (cossus cossus) is the UK's heaviest moth, with a wingspan of around 8 cm. It gets its name from the strong, goaty odour of the caterpillar! The wings are cryptically marked to merge with the cracked bark of trees. The purplish-red caterpillar burrows into the trunk of deciduous trees, feeding on the heartwood (old apple trees are a favourite). Because of the long digestion period needed for this food matter, the larva lives for up to five years before pupating. It emerges as an adult moth the following summer, flying in June and July, but not feeding at all and rarely seen.

Goat Moth numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. It is recognised by Natural England as 'nationally scarce' and now lives only in scattered locations south of the Wash.

It's a great find and adds to the mosaic of our Waterfurlong wildlife.


Butterfly Conservation has an excellent factsheet on the Goat Moth.

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

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