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 19, 2019

The Finns call February ‘Helmikuu’ or ‘month of the pearl’ because droplets of melting snow on trees freeze quickly again, wreathing the branches with ice-pearls.

Our British ancestors were less poetic about the shortest and (despite the current mild spell) of...

February 16, 2019


16th February 1881 saw the burial of John Avery, a retired member of the Burghley gardening team who remained active to the last. Working under head gardener Richard Gilbert, 'Old John' had been involved in developing and trialling apple...

February 12, 2019

"You know why trees smell the way they do?" Murphy asked, looking up from her hammering. 

"Sap?" Logan guessed. "Chlorophyll?"

Murphy shook her head. "Stars. Trees breathe in starlight year after year, and it goes deep into their bones. So when you cut a tree open, you s...

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...

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