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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My Blossomed Pear Tree



And after April, when May follows,

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!

Hark, where my blossomed pear tree in the hedge

Leans to the field and scatters on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops ...


Every year when the pear trees blossom I remember these lovely lines from Robert Browning's 'Home-Thoughts From Abroad.' And as we pass from April to May, our ancient Williams bon Chrétien pear is at the height of her beauty. Normally by May Day she would have completed her performance and bowed out to the apple trees, but this spring's biting easterly winds have held everything back. So on International Orchard Day, from the cosiness of my potting shed, I delight in the show our Williams has been staging for at least two centuries. Pears are the longest-lived British fruit trees, with some believed to be four hundred years old - granddaughters of trees that watched the Norman conquest sweep across the land. Ours is now tall, gaunt and leggy, and training the gorgeous violet-scented rosa banksiae alba plena to spill out from her lower branches in June has proved a lovely partnership. If we are unable to overturn our eviction order I hope to rescue the rose, but I can do nothing to protect the pear. The thought that this is probably the last time she will scatter first her blossom and then her juicy, scabby little fruits is heartbreaking. For up and down the country we seem to have a new breed of tenant taking over precious plots like these; a breed to whom William I with his Harrying of the North would have related, determined to subordinate their territory with JCBs, chainsaws and glyphosate sprays. They want neatness and order - a half acre of border-to-border fenced lawn on which they can parade their sit-on mowers like some ghastly jousting re-enactment, entranced not by the waft of honeysuckle from the hedgerow but by smell of lighter fuel from the smouldering barbecue. These are the same people who petition councils to wreck tree-lined suburban streets because their shining 4 x 4s are 'assaulted' by honeydew and bird droppings. A stately old pear tree enjoying her last decades in the sun, still nurturing chafer beetles and thrushes' nests, has no place in their regulated, sanitised world. She will be seen not as a miracle, but as an obstacle and with one swoop of the axe her life will be over.

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