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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March 29, 2019

As we get ready to put the clocks forward, it's interesting to read the Stamford Institution's thoughts on the novel concept of Daylight Savings (or, as Tom Sandall puts it, Sunset Delay) five years before its introduction. 

Tom Sandall writes in his journal for 19...

March 27, 2019

When I first began researching the history of Waterfurlong Gardens I stumbled across an 1892 Stamford Mercury report about a bunch of naughty schoolboys stealing lemonade from the summerhouse of one Mr T Sandall, bank manager. I then discovered a further reference to T...

March 25, 2019

Usually Waterfurlong's first apple of the year to blossom, Lord Suffield was rated a superb early cooker by Victorian gardeners, receiving more votes than any other at the 1883 RHS congress. 

It was raised by Mancunian hand-loom weaver Thomas Thorpe at Boardma...

March 22, 2019

On the first day of spring my gardening neighbour Liz and I shared our mutual delight at the masses of purple and white violets blooming under our fruit trees and in the surrounding hedgerows.

Once cultivated in every English garden, more than 300 years ago plant collec...

March 19, 2019


The plot really did thicken when two of our Victorian Waterfurlong gardening families were involved in one of the most gruesome cases ever recorded in Stamford - a case that at first sight potentially involved the rare...

March 14, 2019

Does anyone read H E Bates these days? It is decades since I read 'Love for Lydia' or 'Fair Stood the Wind for France', but my copies of Bates's essay collections 'Through the Woods' and 'Down the River' remain some of the best-thumbed books on my shelves. He grew up o...

March 4, 2019



Before setting up his famous Bedford nursery business, Waterfurlong gardener Thomas Laxton spent many years as a Stamford solicitor and barrister, working from his chambers in St Mary's Hill. In Mar...

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