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.

On reaching the garden gate, it is tantalising to wonder who was opening it 50 years ago, 150 years ago, possibly even 250 years ago ... Who planted the old apple trees? Who trimmed the hedges and dug the vegetable patch? Who drank lemonade in the summerhouse and played on the swing? 


Follow our quest to discover our gardening forebears, 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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February 12, 2020

If you walked down to the bottom of Waterfurlong, crossed the Millstream and looked over to the east in the summer of 1881, this is the tranquil view that would have greeted you. In the distance you can see a windmill, a row of Lombardy poplars and, beyond them, the sp...

February 3, 2020

Last summer, proceeds from the honesty box stall enabled us to send samples from seven heritage Waterfurlong apple trees for DNA testing. We asked our visiting apple guru, Denis Smith, to select the specimens that most intrigued or baffled him. After months of waiting,...

January 23, 2020

"It is not Spring yet, Spring is being dreamed...."

                                              Edward Thomas

Photograph © Waterfurlong gardener, Jo Henchy

January 20, 2020

If you enjoyed our piece on Victorian gardener and local veterinary surgeon John Swan, you'll be interested in this fantastic photo of his Wharf Road premises, courtesy of Frank Newbon's History of Stamford Facebook page

In 1880 John's home and surgery were devastated...

January 7, 2020

My research into former Waterfurlong gardeners is continuing and I have recently added a biography for Edward Joyce (1848-1935) to the website. Edward is the gentleman with his arms crossed in the front row of the above photograph.

Edward and his wife Mary gardened Plo...

December 22, 2019

As many of you will know, it has been a difficult few months at the gardens but we are hoping for a happier 2020 and aim to resume regular posting in the New Year. In the meantime, we would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to Waterfurlong gardeners old and new, to o...

July 12, 2019

 Rosa Dorothy Perkins - a favourite of Stamford nurseryman James Brown


Our most famous Victorian Waterfurlong gardener, Thomas Laxton, is still known for the peas, strawberries and apples he introduced, but one of his forgotten hor...

July 2, 2019

Rosa Madame Alfred Carrière

Despite June's drenching rain, it's been a wonderful summer for roses here. Our gardeners grow many different types - wander along the Waterfurlong lanes and you might spot lovely old ramblers like Albertine and Madame Alfred Carrière scrambl...

June 17, 2019

'There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.'

                                              Mirabel Osler...

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