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 October: Bramley's Seedling

Photograph © Alan Buckingham

If you fancy a trip out this Saturday, why not head to the picturesque market town of Southwell near Nottingham for its annual Bramley Apple Festival?

Bramley’s Seedling has a remarkable history which began in 1809 when young Mary Anne Brailsford popped a few apple pips from her mother's kitchen table into a pot. One of these grew into a vigorous sapling which was planted in the family garden in Southwell's Church Street. The tree had been cropping for some years when in 1857 it caught the eye of seventeen-year-old Henry Merryweather, who recognised its potential for his fledgling nursery business.

By this time the Brailsfords' cottage was owned by Mary Anne's son-in-law, butcher Matthew Bramley, who supplied

graftwood on condition that the new apple bore his name. Henry Merryweather began selling Bramley trees in 1862 and enjoyed immediate success, not least because the newly-built railway network enabled him to get his produce to market quickly. By the turn of the century Bramleys were widely planted in Midlands orchards and in 1914 horticultural journal The Garden noted 'There is scarcely an organisation in and around Southwell that has not benefitted from Mr Merryweather's presence.'

Southwell Minster Window © J Hannan-Briggs

Henry remained immensely proud of his introduction, describing his apple stock as 'very fine' and 'beautiful' in his notes. Today, Henry's great grandson Roger organises Southwell's apple festival and has generously gifted a stained glass window depicting Bramley's Seedling to the town's famous Minster. Guided apple walks also take in the original apple tree (sadly now dying of honey fungus), the Heritage Centre's photographic collection, some of the town's other ancient Bramleys, and the Southwell community orchard, whose trees were donated by Merryweather & Sons nursery.


In 2015 the Bramley apple was given protected status by the European Commission as a pie filling and its global renown has led to the intriguing creation of the Japanese Bramley Apple Fan Club!

Minoru Arai, the first chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society of Japan, discovered the apple baked into a pie in a London restaurant and become an immediate convert. The Japanese are used to naturally sweet red dessert apples such as the Fuji and were fascinated by the Bramley's tart flavour. The British RHS sent cuttings of Bramley stock to Mr Arai and within a few years the apple was thriving within Japan and the fan club established. Founder and spokesperson Kimi Mizuno says 'British apple pie was a big culture shock! It’s so different to what we have here.' The fan club has twice visited Southwell and with the help of the British Embassy has kick-started Japan’s cider boom and encouraged experimental Japanese chefs to incorporate

the Bramley into sushi!

Find information on the Bramley Festival here.

To learn more about the Bramley's history and culinary uses see our Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens page.

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

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