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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 January: London Pippin

Early January is an exciting time in Waterfurlong for it's when our long-awaited apple DNA test results arrive. This year has revealed another rarity - London Pippin - otherwise known as Five Crowned Pippin because of its distinctive ribbed shape. It's a truly ancient variety, originating from Norfolk or Essex, first recorded in 1580 and probably acquiring the prefix 'London' from its popularity in the capital's markets in bygone centuries.

This discovery reinforces the value of DNA testing where there is doubt about an old tree's provenance. Our apple expert, Denis Smith's, initial and tentative guess was Lord Burghley (an infrequently found local variety) but even after pruning neighbouring trees to create more light, our mystery specimen remained green whereas one of Lord Burghley's identifying features is its deep maroon flush.

Denis has never found another specimen of London Pippin in this part of the country and it didn't appear on the lists of old local nurseries. We'll probably never know where our tree was sourced, or why the gardener chose it - it's a perfectly acceptable dual-purpose apple but not a variety you'd hunt down for its flavour. Perhaps the reason lay in its habit of remaining on the tree late into December, when it can still be picked and eaten as a sharp little dessert apple - a valuable characteristic in the days before cold storage and mass importation, when the use of different varieties to extend the cropping season was a true art.

This year we've decided to devote the money we raise through our honesty box scheme to DNA testing as many of the more unusual Waterfurlong apples as we can afford, so who knows what surprises might emerge next winter ...

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

Photograph Kind Courtesy of Keepers Nursery ©

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