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,...

May 1, 2019

At last the gardening year proper is here and April has seen a frenzy of activity in Waterfurlong - potatoes put in, lawns mown, sweet peas planted out, and the month began with gardener Jo's cunning April Fool's joke, which tricked nearly everyone!

What a luxury i...

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 8, 2019

In depressing February what a rare and special delight it is to spot bullfinches in the gardens. The quintessential orchard bird, the bullfinch's Welsh name 'Coch y Berllan' translates as 'red of the orchard.' The male bullfinch is unmistakeable with his gorgeous rose-...

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...

January 11, 2019

A nursery ball

with a bell inside

blown through branches 

 a bauble with a tail

peeks in its nest -

bell of lichen

David Morley

Flocks of chattering little Long-tailed Tits are one of the delights of Waterfurlong, especially in winter. Listen to their song and learn about the...

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 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...

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...

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