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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


We just had to send a message to each and every one of you who has signed our petition to thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 💚 We have tried to reply to everyone who has contacted us, but please forgive us if we have not yet managed to reach your post or email.

We started the petition as a last resort after all attempts to engage with the land agent had failed, and we had to input a target for signatures. We chose 10,000 as an audacious and rather arbitrary figure, never imagining that we would realise it in less than two weeks!

Our plight is clearly touching a chord with many, many people. We have received numerous heartrending stories of gardeners facing, or fearing, similar situations. This is not a problem unique to us or local to Stamford, it is affecting allotmenteers and custodians of remaining fragments of heritage orchard, woodland, and meadow up and down the country. Given this, we want not only to overturn our own eviction, but to shine a light on the wider issues involved.

Whilst it is not currently illegal for a landowner to evict an allotment or garden tenant without explanation, right of appeal, or compensation, it is deeply immoral. Gardeners can pour years, decades even, of love, graft and money into their plots only for them to be snatched away. The law on these ‘no fault’ evictions needs to be changed.

Many of you have found our petition through this site or through the country’s network of small orchard groups. Like us, you are worried by the lack of protection afforded to the majority of veteran fruit trees. Getting TPOs can be hard, as councils often classify fruit trees as ‘crops’. There is nothing to stop uncaring or ill-informed landowners or tenants from getting out the axe and drenching the habitat in glyphosate. Once destroyed, these fragile ecosystems, with their rare flora, birds and insects, are gone forever.

What lies behind our eviction?

We remain none the wiser about the reason for our eviction notice. However, the number of supporters who have contacted us about land owners and/or their agents singling out tenants who in some way threaten to hinder their critical path towards land sale, replacing them with new tenants who are less likely to object to development, is sobering.

Strutt & Parker LLP and their lawyers Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP have now had more than a month to do the right thing and at very least explain the reason for serving us notice to quit. Their continuing silence is doing nothing to quell rumours of plans to develop the land – one of the few remaining green lungs of our beautiful town. If the Cecil Estate Family Trust and Strutt & Parker have no intention of developing the land we urge them to issue a statement to that effect to reassure other gardeners and residents.

As a commercial enterprise, at some point Strutt & Parker will presumably be unable to continue ignoring public support for our petition against unfair eviction. What that tipping point is, we have no idea. Perhaps it will be the new target we have set of 30,000, perhaps 300,000…

What you can do to continue helping us

- Every signature counts, so if you have a family member or friend who also feels strongly about the issues involved, please do ask them to sign the petition. Remember, people do not have to reveal their names publicly.

- Share our post with any relevant groups you belong to, whether they focus on gardening, loss of habitat, or social justice.

- If you or a group you run has a Twitter account, please please follow our new page @our_orchard, and retweet our posts. Twitter will be our best means of reaching wider audiences.

- Follow our progress on our social media sites. We are posting up more ‘before and after’ photographs on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and will also continue to post updates and images on this blog. Please do subscribe if you would like to receive notifications.


We want to provide reassurance about some questions which have arisen:

- We are not facing eviction from our home, which we are lucky enough to own. The garden is some three miles away from it.

- We have another eleven months to vacate. Strutt & Parker has had to give us a year’s notice as we have not breached our tenancy agreement.

- At the time of writing, no planning application to develop the land has been submitted.

- We have a lot of local support in our fight. As well as many neighbouring gardeners and Stamford residents, two of our councillors and both our local and regional orchard groups are doing all they can to help, although their sway with a private landowner is limited.

- Our local newspaper has been in touch with us. Whilst we are private people, with no desire for the glare of publicity, as our number of supporters rises this will make our campaign and the wider issues it raises of interest to more prominent news platforms.

Many people have asked for more information about the owner of the land, the Cecil Estate Family Trust (CEFT), and its agent, Strutt & Parker LLP. To the best of our knowledge the following details apply. The CEFT is a family trust fund, with only a handful of its members publicly listed. Strutt & Parker LLP holds delegated authority for the handling of the Trust's affairs, at least in the Stamford area, and has been the sole conduit for communication with the Trust's tenants for many decades. The CEFT is a separate entity from the Burghley House Preservation Trust and the Burghley House Director is not a CEFT trustee. If any of this information is inaccurate, we are happy to stand corrected and amend it. We do not know whether the CEFT trustees are aware of our eviction.

Finally, we know how irritating it is to be bombarded with emails, so you will find only occasional brief campaign updates from us in your inbox - for example, if we hit a major milestone, or if there is a significant development regarding our notice to quit. Please be reassured that we have no direct access to your email address, which Care2 holds privately.

With love, appreciation and best wishes

Karen and Julia


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