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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August 31, 2018

Rarely has there been such a month of contrast in the gardens. Whilst tiny parched apples dropped from the trees in bushels, runner beans belied their name and stopped dead in their tracks and the grass was bleached so blonde we could have been in Provence, tomatoes, p...

August 28, 2018



August 27, 2018

Few trees offer such delicate bloom or as charming a fruit, dangling from the tree’s fine twigs in early autumn like dusty, violet-black bonbons.’ Nigel Slater (1)

Damsons are traditionally harvested around Michaelmas, which falls on 29 September, but this summer’s int...

August 22, 2018

         Photograph courtesy of © Copyright

In April our gardeners went on a search for the frass (droppings) of the Noble Chafer Beetle, a rare and endangered insect whose few survivors live in traditional orchards. We...

August 20, 2018

Today, 20 August, is St Philibert or Filbert's Day. Philibert was born into a wealthy Gascon family in 608 AD. He entered holy orders as a young man and in 654...

August 16, 2018

Nowadays, we sometimes feel we’re fighting a losing battle against the Waterfurlong pigeons, rabbits, muntjac deer and sparrows but the biggest threat to our gardening ancestors’ produce came in human form. Children. 

The long summer holidays when school was o...

August 13, 2018

In August 1875 the Gardeners’ Chronicle reported ‘some English Seedling Roses of considerable promise’(1)had been sent to them by Stamford horticulturalist Thomas Laxton. One he had named Lady Isabel Cecil after Isabella Georgiana Katherine Cecil of Burghley House. The...

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