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July 2021

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We were very sorry to have to cancel our Anniversary Fete in late June at short notice, to comply with the latest government guidelines on social gatherings. Notices were posted on social media and our website but may not have reached everyone. We apologise for the disappointment and any inconvenience caused.

To make up for the cancelled events, we aim to make the Horticultural Show in September a bigger event than usual. We hope more people will enter this year. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, arrange flowers, bake, make preserves, sew, knit, stitch, paint, sketch or take photos, then there is something for you to enter. Schedules are available from the Challis Garden or can be viewed on our website. We would love to see more entries from children and encourage them to enter. There are several activities to choose from, in two age groups – seven years and under and eight to twelve years old. Entry slips to be returned by Thursday 2nd September, please.

The Twelfth Night production on 20th June was a great success, a highly entertaining performance by very professional actors. We are delighted that Half Cut Theatre are returning on Sunday 15th August with Treasure Island. There will again be two performances, at 2pm and 5pm. Book online at or call 07892 854658 to avoid disappointment. No pre-payment is needed, and you ‘Pay What You Decide’ after the performance. Gates open one hour before each performance to let you relax and enjoy a picnic or snacks beforehand. Please bring your own seats and blankets, if possible.

We are delighted that a start has been made on building the new Garden Museum. Footings have been dug and concrete foundations put in. Availability of building materials is an issue in the industry at present, but hopefully construction can progress smoothly during the summer months. The garden will open as usual, but for the foreseeable future, the main entrance to the garden is closed, so please use the side gate on the left-hand side of the car park.

Despite a very dry June, the earlier wet weather and rain in the first half of July has encouraged very vigorous growth. Many of the plants in the herbaceous borders are much larger than usual, with wonderful displays of flowers. The wildflower meadow in the centre of the main lawn is especially good this year, dominated now by scabious and knapweed giving mauve and purple hues. There seem to be fewer butterflies around this year – probably due to the cold, wet weather in late spring affecting the first generations – but lots of bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and ladybirds. Visitors have enjoyed these displays. Come and see for yourself!

Local artist Fran Godwood has produced a new garden design for our notelets and tea towels to augment our range of Challis gifts. Also available: honey from our hives, fresh garden produce, jams and preserves, house plants, garden plants and old bottles. Do have a look.

Two tiny ‘hoglets’ were seen by several people in the garden in early July, just 10cm long. Cute!

The archive remains closed to visitors, but work on cataloguing has continued and we hope to find some means of making an online catalogue available to the public. One of the features of the archive is that it holds complete sets of Sawston Scene and the Sawston Crier and a good selection of press cuttings about Sawston from the local newspapers since the 1980s. Anyone who would like to look at any items is welcome to make an appointment to do so. We also collect orders of service from the funerals of Sawston inhabitants to provide a permanent record of their lives in Sawston, and will be pleased to receive any of these, which can be posted in our post box.

We were recently very pleased to receive a generous donation from a member of the Challis family which includes books owned by Mary Challis and many other family artefacts and photographs, which we hope to display soon.
A recently catalogued file concerns the way the Festival of Britain was marked in Sawston, seventy years ago. There was a special week in July 1951, which included a concert, a tennis tournament, an exhibition and the Horticultural Show. There were also visits to factories at Thomas Evans, James Garnar. Eastern Counties Leather, Edward Towgood, the House of Spicer and Crampton’s. None of these enterprises now exists, illustrating how Sawston has changed in the interim. There is an archive photograph showing the opening of the Festival Week at the Village College.
Mike Redshaw & Mary Dicken
Published in the August–September 20221 Sawston Scene

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Treasure Island’ with Half Cut Theatre: Sunday 15th August at 2pm and 5pm

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Gates open one hour before each performance. Advance bookings only.

Book at Eventrbrite for the 2pm performance

Book at Eventrbrite for the 5pm performance

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Challis Horticultural Show 2021: Saturday 4th September, 2pm to 4.30pm

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Here is the updated schedule for 2021:

2021 schedule as a Word file

2021 schedule as a PDF

Staging of exhibits 9am to 10.45am, judging 11am, gates open 2pm.  Presentation of trophies at 3.30pm, followed immediately by an auction of exhibits. Admission: £1 for adults including exhibitors. Children free.

Admission: £1 for adults including exhibitors. Children – free

  1. Open to all.
  2. No fees to enter classes.
  3. Open classes (excluding children’s classes) are limited to two entries per exhibitor in any class, but only one will be considered for a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place.
  4. All entries must be made on an official form and returned by
    Thursday 2nd September to the Challis Garden or to 68 High Street, Sawston
  5. Entries that have previously been in the show will not be accepted.
  6. Staging from 9am to 10.45am. Judging from 11am. Public admission from 2pm. Presentation of trophies at 3.30pm, followed immediately by an auction of exhibits.
  7. No exhibit to be removed before 4pm.
  8. 3 points to be awarded to the winner in each class, 2 to the second and 1 to the third
  9. All trophies must be left for engraving.


The Garden News Trophy for the best exhibit in Classes 1 to 21

The Trustees’ Trophy for the highest number of points in Classes 1 to 21

The Frank Matthews Trophy for the best exhibit in the Domestic Classes

The Mary Challis Trophy for the Best Floral exhibit

The Women’s Institute Trophy for the best exhibit in the Handicraft Classes

The Sue Reeve Trophy for the best exhibit in classes for children who are 8 to 12

The John Falkner Trophy for the best exhibit in classes for children of 7 and under

The Chairman’s Trophy for the family winning the highest number of points in the show

The Norman Carver Trophy for the best exhibit in the entire show



All entries must have been grown by the exhibitor

1.             5 white potatoes

2.            5 coloured potatoes

3.            5 onions with necks tied and 2cm of root attached

4.            8 shallots with necks tied and 2cm of root attached

5.            5 beetroots with necks cut at about 5cm and roots attached

6.            5 runner beans

7.            5 French beans

8.            5 carrots with foliage trimmed

9.            an exhibit of any other vegetable

10.            5 tomatoes with short stems

11.            a truss of miniature tomatoes of any variety

12.            1 cucumber

13            1 head of lettuce

14.            5 cooking apples

15.            5 dessert apples

16.            a dish of stone fruit

17.            a dish of soft fruit

18.            an exhibit of any other fruit

19.            a vegetable marrow for weight

20.            the longest runner bean

21.            a presentation of herbs


22.            a miniature arrangement of flowers no taller or wider than 6 inches

23.            a vase of annual flowers

24.            5 stems of flowers, any variety

25.            a single rose bloom

26.            a single bloom of any flower other than a rose

27.            a green arrangement

28.            a buttonhole or corsage for a wedding

29.            a flowering pot plant

30.            a foliage pot plant


Jars for classes 31 to 34 should be clear 1lb jars with new lids, labelled with the type of preserve and full date of making, with no commercial labels attached.

31.            1 jar of jam made with soft fruit

32.            1 jar of jam made with stone fruit

33.            1 jar of marmalade

34.            1 jar of chutney or relish

35.            1 fruit cake – set recipe (appended)

36.            1 decorated celebration sponge cake – any recipe

37.            3 fruit scones

38.            3 chocolate brownies

39.            3 cinnamon buns  –  set recipe (appended)

40.            a loaf of bread of any recipe or shape

41.            a 1lb jar of clear honey

42.             3 eggs, any colour


All entries must have been made within the last twelve months

43.            a hand-knitted garment

44.            a machine-knitted garment

45.            a crocheted item

46.            an item of decorative cross-stitch needlework

47.            any other hand-embroidered item (not cross-stitch)

48.            a home-made stuffed toy, knitted or crocheted

49.            a sewn garment

50.            a painting of any subject in watercolour, acrylic, pastel or oil

51.            a drawing, engraving or lithoprint, any subject

52.            a photo of ‘close-up nature’, up to 8 by 6 inches, not framed or mounted

53.            a photo of ‘back together’, up to 8 by 6 inches, not framed or mounted

54.            an article made of wood


(in two groups: 7 years and under

8 to 12 years)

55.            a miniature garden on a plate

56.            an animal made from fruit, vegetables, pins and matchsticks

57.            an arrangement of flowers

58.            3 decorated biscuits

59.            a piece of craftwork

Please remember to make it clear if you don’t want your entry to be auctioned.

Please address any queries regarding anything on the schedule to Mike Redshaw either by email or telephone 01223 834511.


Fruit Cake                        Class 35

200g (8oz) SR flour

¼ tsp salt

100g (4oz) margarine

100g (4oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

225g (9oz) mixed fruit

1/8 pint milk

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Line bottom of an 18cm x 7cm (7 x 3 inches) round tin

  1. Sieve flour and salt
  2. Beat margarine until soft, add sugar, cream until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs one at a time with 1 tbsp flour, beating well between each addition; add milk and a little flour and beat well
  4. Stir in fruit and remainder of flour
  5. Put mixture in tin, bake for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, cover with greaseproof paper when sufficiently brown on top.

Cinnamon buns                        Class 39 

Plain flour (cook decides how much!)

3 tbsp granulated sugar

2¼ tsp (7g packet) quick yeast

125ml water

65ml milk

2 tbsp butter

1 egg

55g softened butter

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

50g (2oz) brown sugar

125g (5oz) icing sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp water

Raisins or sultanas (optional)

Milk or egg for wash (optional)

Grease or line a 10-inch diameter or 13 x 9 inch tin

  1. Mix together flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl
  2. Warm milk, water and butter gently until butter melts
  3. Stir liquid in to dry mix, add egg and knead well until no longer sticky; place in a greased bowl to rest for 5 minutes
  4. Roll out dough to 15 x 9 inch rectangle, spread with softened butter then sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon mixture. Add raisins or sultanas (optional). Roll up tightly and cut into 12 pieces.
  5. Place in tin and cover with greased foil, put in warm place to rise for 20 minutes.
  6. Make glaze by combining icing sugar, water and lemon juice.
  7. Remove cover, brush with milk or egg (optional). Bake in oven at 190°C for 15–20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, glaze, leave to cool in tin. Break apart to serve. 

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May 2021

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A busy month coming up in the garden with three events on successive Sundays in June. Please note that the normal opening times will not apply on these days. First up is the Open Garden event on Sunday 13th June in support of the wonderful National Garden Scheme (NGS), which has raised money for nursing and healthcare charities since 1927. The total to date has exceeded £60 million, with around £3 million donated annually in recent years – a fantastic achievement. Due to the pandemic, most private gardens could not open last year so we are very pleased to be able to continue our commitment to the scheme again in 2021. The garden will be open from 1pm to 5 pm. Admission is £3 per adult (free for children). Plants will be on sale on the day, with a proportion of the takings going to the NGS.

On Sunday 20th June, we are delighted to be hosting our first open-air theatre performance. This features Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by the Half Cut Theatre Company. This is a new theatre group, based in London, set up last year in response to the closure of theatres due to the Covid crisis. One of the founding members is a Duxford lad, James Camp, who attended SVC – hence the interest in bringing the play to Sawston. They will give two performances at 2pm and 5pm. Please book online at or call 07892 854658. There is no pre-payment required but a ‘Pay What You Decide’ contribution after the performance.

Gates will open one hour before each performance so there is time to relax and have a picnic or snacks before the play starts, and you can visit our Pimm’s tent for a selection of refreshing drinks. It promises to be an entertaining afternoon. If possible, please bring your own seats and blankets as there are a limited number available on site. There is a lot of interest in this event, so do book your place early!

The company is returning in August to perform Treasure Island – more details about this in the next issue.
Our postponed Anniversary Fete will be held on Sunday 27th June from 2pm to 4.30pm. It is hoped all our usual groups and attractions can attend to entertain and educate us. This year we propose to have a Kid’s Zone hosting a range of activities, which we hope makes up partly for the cancelled children’s events over the past year. Look out for posters in the village and on our Facebook page. As usual, M C Teas will serve tea and cakes from the house.
Passers-by will have noticed scaffolding at the front of the house at 68 High Street in recent weeks. This is for essential maintenance work on guttering, fascias and soffits, re-pointing brickwork and re-coating the external walls. The opportunity will also be taken to install a swift nestbox at the front. Apparently, swifts used to nest at the front but nesting sites were blocked off during renovation work. Two tubular nestboxes were fitted to the south-facing wall as replacements but they do not appear to have been used regularly. In recent years, the swifts have been nesting at the rear of the properties. It will be interesting to see how soon the new boxes are occupied. Swifts return here in mid-May and quickly start to seek out nest sites. Hopefully the new boxes will be in place in good time. Like most wildlife nowadays, swifts need as much help as we can give them. Let’s wait and see!

Despite inclement weather – cold spells, a very dry April and late frosts – the garden volunteers have been busy preparing the herbaceous beds for the summer, tidying up the winter/spring border, raising bedding plants, trimming and mowing. If the weather – finally – comes good in the coming weeks, we can look forward to lots of colourful displays through to autumn. Look out for the stunning displays on false acacia and golden rain trees from late June to early July.

We have re-organised the plant nursery area and gift stand, putting material for sale on stands, with clear labelling and pricing. This is a much-needed improvement. We hope you like it.

Are you aware there is a unique apple variety in our garden? The large tree at the main entrance has been identified as a cross between Dr Harvey (one of the earliest English culinary apple varieties) and Cox’s Orange Pippin. This cross is not on the national register of English apples and hence has been accepted as a new variety ‘Mary Challis’ and listed in the Register of Local Cultivars. We have raised new trees by grafting, which are now available as two-year old semi-standard trees. If you are interested in planting a Mary Challis apple, please talk to one of the garden team. It produces medium-large apples, with good cooking and eating properties that store well through to Christmas time.

Mike Redshaw

Printed in the June–July 2021 issue of Sawston Scene

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March 2021

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In view of the ongoing pandemic and the Government’s latest roadmap out of lockdown, we have had to cancel our popular Easter children’s event and defer our Anniversary Fete to a later date. As it stands, we plan to hold the Fete on Sunday 27th June, which is after the 21st June tentative deadline when all restrictions on social mixing will be lifted. However, we are all aware that the situation can change quickly, so please look out for further announcements nearer the time.

We were very pleased to re-open the Garden to visitors in February. Current rules allow for households and support ‘bubbles’, and for two people from different households to meet outdoors for recreation and exercise. From 29th March, the ‘rule of six’ will apply again, allowing more people to meet up outdoors, with further restrictions easing after 12th April and again from 17th May. Confused? If so, go to the Government’s website to see exactly what is and isn’t allowed.

Back in the garden there are lots of signs of spring. Yellow brimstone butterflies and early bumblebees are active on warm days. Snowdrops and aconites have gone over but the crocuses are hanging on and open up fully when the sun shines. Early daffodils started to flower in March and will be at their peak in April, and later on early tulips and crown imperial lilies will appear. There is still a surprising amount of spring blossom to appreciate – and for our honey bees and other pollinators to feed on – including Cornus mas, shrub honeysuckles and Mahonias. Damson trees and ornamental cherries are starting to show their pink and white flowers, giving a tantalising glimpse of the ‘main event’ when the apple blossom comes out in April and May. Can’t wait!

We’ve noticed a lot of ladybirds emerging from their winter hibernation in recent days – mostly seven-spotted ones. Are we in for a significant ‘ladybird year’ in 2021? The last was in 2018 when huge numbers were seen pupating on tree trunks in the garden during very hot summer weather. Another interesting insect to look out for now is the hairy-footed flower-bee. This species emerges very early in the year, flying low over the ground to feed on spring flowers such as early-flowering borage, Pulmonaria and yellow archangel. They are difficult to observe, restless and fast-flying, but you might be lucky enough to spot one. Ask one of our volunteers for help.

We will be putting up scaffolding on the front and side of the Challis house for some essential maintenance work. Unfortunately, this hampers progress on planting up the front garden, but we will continue to do what we can. At least, it will give us more time to select and source the key plants needed. Gardening cannot be rushed – this is no television makeover job à la Titchmarsh!

There are often surprises in the Challis world. Recently, our builders found an old bottle under the floorboards of one of our properties. It is in remarkably good condition and cleaned up well. The two labels are clearly legible, one with a date of 1862. It is not clear this was the date the bottle was made but it must be from around that time. This bottle of blackcurrant wine was made by Hill, Evans & Co., Worcester and bottled by Robert Waters. The label on the reverse of the bottle makes interesting reading:

London 1862
Extract from the “STANDARD” of Nov. 1st
“In the cursory notices we have from time to time given of Class 2, which embraces chemical and pharmaceutical processes, we have omitted to mention WATERS’ QUININE WINE. We are all the more sorry for this because we can bear personal testimony of its value as a tonic, to the innocence of its composition, and of the pleasantness of its taste. Quinine in any form is apt to induce nausea and headache; in the shape of the Quinine Wine of Mr. Robert Waters without its sickening tendencies. Again, Quinine is usually dissolved in a powerful acid, which adds considerably to the disagreeableness of its taste. We do not know the process of Mr. Waters, but we do know that there is apparently no more acid in this Quinine Wine that there is in ordinary sherry bitters, and that it is equally palatable and far more medicinal.”

Well, you don’t see testimonials like that nowadays! Those of us that have taken quinine medication for malaria or tasted quinine wine can identify with the author’s sentiments.

We have started to produce a monthly newsletter, to inform visitors and the general public about what’s happening in the Challis Trust, with what to look for in the garden and any recent news. Get your copy from the garden or the Green Weigh shop or find it on local Facebook pages.

Mike Redshaw

Published in Sawston Scene, April–May 2021

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