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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May 12, 2019

This magical, painterly photograph was taken back in May 2003 by Waterfurlong gardener Huw of his little nephew Fred running down the lane through the fallen horse chestnut blossoms.

We've recently discovered that the trees lining the west side of Waterfurlong were plan...

May 9, 2019


Victorian Waterfurlong gardener Edward Winterton grew up in one of Stamford's notorious slum courts - Protection Yard off Scotgate. He somehow managed to secure an apprenticeship as a carver and gilder, (probabl...

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...

April 9, 2019


Our Victorian gardener Matthew 'Matty' Lightfoot, is best remembered for his role as Stamford's mace-bearer, but before he took up his position at the Town Hall, he was a member of the local constabulary. In April 188...

April 1, 2019

Our cover-girl for March is 'Hanging On', so named by Jude and Flora after mum Jo rescued the poor little hen and her friend 'Tough Guy' from the hell of a battery farm. The new arrivals are beginning to gain the confidence to explore Jo's lovely garden, but need the p...

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 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...

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...

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