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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April 12, 2019

One of our kind subscribers, John, pointed out that our last article on Matthew Lightfoot featured a photo of what was almost certainly the wrong station. "The image of Stamford station whilst very nice is not I think the station from which our gallant police constable...

March 29, 2019

As we get ready to put the clocks forward, it's interesting to read the Stamford Institution's thoughts on the novel concept of Daylight Savings (or, as Tom Sandall puts it, Sunset Delay) five years before its introduction. 

Tom Sandall writes in his journal for 19...

March 27, 2019

When I first began researching the history of Waterfurlong Gardens I stumbled across an 1892 Stamford Mercury report about a bunch of naughty schoolboys stealing lemonade from the summerhouse of one Mr T Sandall, bank manager. I then discovered a further reference to T...

March 19, 2019


The plot really did thicken when two of our Victorian Waterfurlong gardening families were involved in one of the most gruesome cases ever recorded in Stamford - a case that at first sight potentially involved the rare...

March 4, 2019



Before setting up his famous Bedford nursery business, Waterfurlong gardener Thomas Laxton spent many years as a Stamford solicitor and barrister, working from his chambers in St Mary's Hill. In Mar...

February 25, 2019

Stamford Millstream 1900. The buildings were later demolished to create Bath Row car park.

Waterfurlong's lowest lane of gardens is bordered by Stamford Millstream. I can just about remember a time when the water flowed and kingfishers darted along the banks, and now a...

February 19, 2019

The Finns call February ‘Helmikuu’ or ‘month of the pearl’ because droplets of melting snow on trees freeze quickly again, wreathing the branches with ice-pearls.

Our British ancestors were less poetic about the shortest and (despite the current mild spell) of...

January 3, 2019

With the short, dark days and the bustle of Christmas, not much gardening tends to happen in December and this winter's heavy rain hasn't helped matters. But there are honourable exceptions. A few gardeners have been valiantly double-digging their plots...

December 31, 2018


As this centenary year draws to a close, it is poignant to read about the Great War's impact on one of our older gardeners, waiting at home for news from France and facing a difficult decision of his own ......

December 28, 2018

It's time to sow early broad beans if you haven't yet got round to it. This year mine are coming on nicely (fingers crossed) in the potting shed, in stark contrast to last when mice feasted on every seed I lovingly planted outdoors in the December snow!...

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