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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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...

November 28, 2018

My heart is a garden tired with autumn,

Heaped with bending asters and dahlias heavy and dark.

In the hazy sunshine, the garden remembers April,

The drench of rains and a snowdrop quick and clear as a spark;

Daffodils blowing in the cold winds of morning,

And golden tulips,...

November 27, 2018

Damp autumn weather has brought two seasonal phenomena to Waterfurlong - fungi and molehills. As every morning revealed new earthworks in the orchard, I realised how little I knew about Britain’s secretive little mole.

The word ‘mole’ is late Middle English and pro...

November 22, 2018

Which gardener doesn't share the perverse joy expressed by Robert Smith Surtees in 1843? Once the bedraggled remnants of this year's garden are cleared away, it's so much easier to start planning for next.

Photographer unknown

November 19, 2018


Police Sergeant John Harrison was one of Waterfurlong's longest-standing and most dedicated Victorian gardeners and whenever trouble brewed (on or off the plots) he seemed to be at the ready with handcuffs and truncheon....

November 16, 2018

 'November is the pearl-grey month, the changeling between warm crimson October and cold white December, the month when the leaves fall in slow drifting whirls, and the shapes of the trees are revealed, when the earth imperceptibly wakes, and stretches her bare limbs a...

November 5, 2018


Cantankerous Austin Barnett was the archetypal neighbour from hell. Bigamist, pugilist and landlord of Church Street's Sun and Railway Inn, he gardened in Waterfurlong on and off for ten years during the late 19...

November 2, 2018

October is always a busy gardening month, with much to do before the winter weather sets in. This year it's been a race against time with temperatures plummeting thirty 

degrees in six weeks. The apple harvest has been early and just g...

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