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 28, 2019

It's hard to believe that for most of February 2018 Waterfurlong lay under a thick blanket of snow - the little Elka daffodils now in full bloom didn't flower until mid April last year.  Not surprisingly, for the past few days the gardens have been a hive of activity ,...

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 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 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 24, 2018


Many of our Waterfurlong fruit trees were supplied by Messrs W & J Brown, whose extensive nursery grounds lay on the other side of Tinwell Road where Exeter Gardens now stands. Brown's main base was at Wothorpe, w...

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