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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 Tried Our Best ...

I should have written this update months ago, but the universe intervened, first with a broken spine and then with Covid pneumonia. I'm finally on the mend , but it breaks my heart to say our beloved orchard garden isn't...

Thank you so much to all, near and far, who fought alongside us to save the garden, but on 31 March we were evicted. This didn't stop the agent trying to bill us for ongoing rent, which probably tells you everything you need to know.

The views of the 13,000 people who signed our petition were of no interest to the agent or the land owner, and to the bitter end they refused to explain their decision. No warnings, no known complaints, no arrears, no rationale, no right of appeal, no compensation for years of back-breaking restoration, investment and love. The law, as it stands, allowed them to do this.

My Subject Access Request was treated with the same contempt. I am posting a copy of the word-salad I received from the land agent in reply to my detailed request - all the redactions are theirs and the alleged unattributed 'complaints' make no sense to us. Following a judgment against them by the Information Commissioner I finally received a 78 page response, so heavily redacted that only a handful of single-sentence snippets are of the vaguest relevance. One of these was a gleeful comment about the “amazing” garden we had created, complete with smiley face…

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the likely motives behind our eviction. I would write more, but have received anonymous threats of defamation action should I do so and I do not have the resources to match the deep pockets of the agent or the land owner.

So many people have contacted me with their own heart-breaking stories, many of which have led to serious mental breakdown, and I will continue to campaign for decent rights for those who rent private allotments or gardens.

We were fortunate Peterborough City Council allowed us to reclaim some narrow strips of unused land surrounding my son’s allotment plot there, and over the course of the year we dug out tons of rubble, transplanted 300 plants, shrubs, young fruit trees and bushes, and transferred our potting shed, raised beds and frames. This alone cost a fortune in time and money, and visiting the plot involves my daughter and I in a 30 mile round trip, but we have at least been able to salvage something from the situation and are immensely grateful for that and for the support of the lovely Peterborough allotmenteers.

Meanwhile, I have put my months of enforced confinement to good use writing. I am just completing a book about the lost apples of Stamford and am half way through another on the history of gardening in England’s smallest county of Rutland, which lies on my doorstep. I will post more about these soon.

I cannot bear to go back to our old garden, but understand it remains in the forlorn state it was left when we closed the gate for the final time after removing everything we could. Again, read into that what you will. Our local orchard groups have assured me they will be keeping all the ancient Waterfurlong trees under very close scrutiny.

Thank you again, each and every friend and supporter who helped us keep going. We will always remember your kindness, and hold onto the dream that one day we can create a magical orchard of heritage trees on land of our own.


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