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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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 28, 2018

It's time to sow early broad beans if you haven't yet got round to it. This year mine are coming on nicely (fingers crossed) in the potting shed, in stark contrast to last when mice feasted on every seed I lovingly planted outdoors in the December snow!...

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...

December 21, 2018

 Photograph kind courtesy of Alan Buckingham © All rights reserved.

'I love the crackle of winter. The snap of dry twigs underfoot, boots crunching on frozen grass, a fire spitting in the hearth, ice thawing on a pond. The innate crispness of the season appeals to me, l...

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...

December 13, 2018

Beech-wood fires burn bright and clear

If the logs are kept a year;

Store your beech for Christmastide

With new-cut holly laid beside;

Chestnut's only good, they say,

If for years 'tis stored away;

Birch and fir-wood burn too fast

Blaze too bright and do not last;

Flames from...

December 10, 2018

To-day I think
Only with scents, - scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke's smell, too,

December 5, 2018


Modern day Waterfurlong sits on the long-abandoned site of the medieval hamlet of Bradcroft or Bredcroft. One of Bradcroft's functions was making bread for the townspeople of Stamford; another was housing the Rutland court. The...

December 3, 2018

What an amazing autumn it's been for fruits and berries. Just look at these glowing red crab apples on Malus Comtesse de Paris.

Knowing that a surfeit of berries usually signals a hard winter, we checked out David King of Weather Without Technology's latest update...

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