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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LOSING THE PLOT - LITERALLY




After a long spell of radio silence, there is a lot to share with you on The Plot Thickens, some good, some distressing.



THE GOOD NEWS – MY FORTHCOMING BOOK


The good news is that during the pandemic I have been busy writing a history book on 200 years of gardening in and around Stamford. Inspired by the story of our tiny corner in Waterfurlong, I started wondering about gardening and gardeners across the wider town and neighbouring villages. What did people grow, who were the nurserymen who supplied them, what produce was Stamford renowned for, what were its forgotten horticultural shows like? It has been a fascinating voyage of discovery and I really hope you will enjoy it!


Research has been challenging to say the least during lockdown and has meant publication will not be until 2022, but I will start posting some articles to whet your appetite. The book covers the period from the early 18th century to the First World War, and is as much about Stamford’s ordinary, everyday gardeners as about the grand houses.



THE BAD NEWS – WE ARE BEING EVICTED FROM OUR GARDEN



There is a bitter irony that in the middle of writing a book about Stamford’s gardening history we have been served notice to quit our plot by the land agent, Strutt & Parker. Despite requests, we have been given no explanation, no right of appeal, and no offer of compensation.


We have never defaulted on the rent, have never breached our tenancy agreement, and never been the subject of a complaint. No other tenants have been served notice (at least, not yet) and it seems we are being singled out by Strutt & Parker for two ‘crimes’:


· Publicly supporting elderly and vulnerable gardening neighbours who were forced off their plots in late 2019 by draconian rent increases.


· Asking Strutt & Parker to limit bonfires on the gardens, especially during the current pandemic, to enable gardeners and walkers with respiratory health problems to enjoy the area safely. This request is in line with South Kesteven District Council’s guidance, but apparently makes us a nuisance to the agent.


"During the covid19 pandemic, more than ever we are urging people to be considerate to their neighbours and avoid having garden bonfires as smoke from bonfires may aggravate existing respiratory conditions or have an adverse impact on those with symptoms of covid19."

http://www.southkesteven.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11228


As readers of The Plot Thickens know, we have spent the past six years restoring our plot from a bomb site to the lovely garden it once was. We have removed lorry-loads of debris, rejuvenated the many heritage apple trees, recreated the Victorian vegetable patch, planted herbaceous borders, and replaced the derelict sheds. We have invested thousands of pounds and countless hours in this labour of love, which is also enjoyed by the many walkers who use the adjacent footpath.


As legislation stands, there is nothing to prevent the landlord of a private allotment from serving notice without explanation, although it most definitely goes against the spirit of the law. We have a year to fight this. We are very determined but are up against a big corporation and need your help! It is a David and Goliath situation.



HOW TO HELP US


Sign our online petition to Strutt & Parker.


Although the land is owned by the Cecil Estate Family Trust (CEFT), land agent Strutt & Parker manages the tenancies. The CEFT trustees’ names are not publicly available, we have no means of communicating with them, and do not know whether they are even aware of their agent’s action.


Anyone who enjoys our website, is a keen gardener, or simply feels strongly about injustice of this kind can sign. You do not need to live locally, or even in the UK. We have international subscribers who have never visited the area but enjoy reading about our gardening history and heritage.


If you can spare the time to leave a brief comment, it will be doubly helpful.



Share our social media posts as widely as you can.


We will be posting regularly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok.



Ask friends and family who are not on social media to sign the petition too.

We appreciate that many people who will feel strongly about our cause are not on social media, so please do spread the word. Anyone of 16 and over with an email address can sign the petition.



The situation is incredibly stressful, and we hope the efforts we put into this campaign will not only enable us to keep our beautiful garden, but will help raise awareness about the lack of legislation to protect good garden and allotment tenants. Every day up and down the country people are facing eviction from plots they love and nurture.


Thank you so very much for your support.










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