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 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,...

March 25, 2019

Usually Waterfurlong's first apple of the year to blossom, Lord Suffield was rated a superb early cooker by Victorian gardeners, receiving more votes than any other at the 1883 RHS congress. 

It was raised by Mancunian hand-loom weaver Thomas Thorpe at Boardma...

February 22, 2019

 'What an apple, what suavity of aroma. Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavour overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet, not sugar-sweet, but the succulence of a well-devilled marrow bone. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance...

February 16, 2019


16th February 1881 saw the burial of John Avery, a retired member of the Burghley gardening team who remained active to the last. Working under head gardener Richard Gilbert, 'Old John' had been involved in developing and trialling apple...

February 1, 2019

If last January the gardens were unworkable because of snow, this January the problem's been mud - thick, clogging, mud. So, for those of us who haven't escaped to warmer climes like Cuba and India (no hint of envy in my tone!) it's generally been an indoors kind of mo...

January 28, 2019

Early January is an exciting time in Waterfurlong for it's when our long-awaited apple DNA test results arrive. This year has revealed another rarity - London Pippin - otherwise known as Five Crowned Pippin because of its distinctive ribbed shape. It's a truly ancient...

December 17, 2018

What better apple to feature in December than local delicacy Allington Pippin, saved as a Christmas treat in bygone years because of the distinct pineapple or fruit-drop flavour it develops when stored?

Despite its comparative rarity nowadays, many Allington Pippin...

December 3, 2018

What an amazing autumn it's been for fruits and berries. Just look at these glowing red crab apples on Malus Comtesse de Paris.

Knowing that a surfeit of berries usually signals a hard winter, we checked out David King of Weather Without Technology's latest update...

November 30, 2018

As you tuck into your first mince-pie of the festive season, you might be interested to learn that acre upon acre of the now almost forgotten Dumelow's Seedling was once grown for the specific purpose of making delectable mincemeat. Not that mincemeat was the variety's...

November 2, 2018

October is always a busy gardening month, with much to do before the winter weather sets in. This year it's been a race against time with temperatures plummeting thirty 

degrees in six weeks. The apple harvest has been early and just g...

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