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.

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November In The Gardens: Bats, Berries and Crimson Bramleys

December 3, 2018

 

What an amazing autumn it's been for fruits and berries. Just look at these glowing red crab apples on Malus Comtesse de Paris.

 

Knowing that a surfeit of berries usually signals a hard winter, we checked out David King of Weather Without Technology's latest update. He reads the situation differently and believes the abundance of rosehip, elder, crab, sloe and snowberry is nature's way of providing the birds with much-needed water and sugars after so many died of thirst and starvation during this summer's drought.

David explains that when heavy snow is likely, low-growing berries like Lords and Ladies rarely produce much fruit (there's no point if it will be smothered and inaccessible) but their red pillars are everywhere. If he's correct, we can expect a mild, wet December, a blustery January, a frosty February and an earlier spring (thank goodness!) than 2018. 

 

We enjoyed a welcome visit from Karen's old school pal, Alison Fure. Alison is a field ecologist specialising in birds and bats, a director of Kingston Environment Centre and author of 'Kingston's Apple Story'. Alison believes orchards can help soften the impact of urbanisation:

"If each child could plant an apple tree – in their name – it would halt the spread of ‘green desert’." She loved the Waterfurlong gardens and we're hoping Alison will return next summer to lead a bat walk for us! Meanwhile, do check out Alison's blog Wildlife Circus

 

As you might have read in our recent blog post about the mole - The Secret Life Of Mouldywarp - our gardeners are tripping over molehills this autumn. Moles maintain their subterranean networks for years, creating new tunnels (and throwing up piles of soil in the process) mainly when earthworms are in short supply. It seems the common worm has been another victim of the summer's parched ground. Meanwhile, we're collecting the fine, weed-free soil to add to next year's potting compost.

 

November is the traditional month for a good garden sort out and thanks to Debbie and Liz's sterling efforts liaising with the salvage merchants, many of our gardeners were able to get rid of rusty panels, barbed wire, old rollers and even ancient animal traps. As dusk fell we shared tea, home-baked muffins and satisfaction that another van-load of tat was heading to the tip. Clearing the plots is an ongoing headache - in decades gone by few of the gardeners had transport and their only means of disposing of rubbish was to pile it up in a corner, bury it or shove it into the hedgerows. Last winter Helena even found a submerged car chassis! The challenge continues ...

 

Our honesty-box scheme has continued to go great guns. Although the produce season is now coming to an end we've been able to offer fragrant quinces, fresh eggs from Jo and Rob's new chickens and at least three different varieties of apple at any given time. Hit of the month has been Crimson Bramley - a gorgeous red sport of the regular Bramley's Seedling apple, which looks as if it could have stepped off the pages of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We now have a waiting list of customers for next year's crop!

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