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Challis House, Museum and Archive are closed until further notice

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September 2021

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Writing this during the mini-heatwave in the second week of September, it feels as if summer is still with us, but there are clear signs of autumn in the garden – heavy morning dew, nights drawing in and ivy flowers alive with honeybees, hoverflies, wasps and the specialist ivy mining bee. Our beehives have produced 80lb of honey to date, with more to come – there is usually a boost at the end of season from ivy flowers, which the bees love, but ivy honey is a tricky one to process.
Apart from our Worcester Pearmain apple and a half-decent crop of Victoria plums, the top-fruit harvest has been poor this year. Not much prospect of producing any apple juice this season, but we are always hopeful of some donated fruit. On the other hand, raspberries are doing very well and should continue into October. Results from the vegetable beds have been rather mixed. Outdoor tomatoes and some potatoes succumbed to blight disease and had to be destroyed. But there were good crops of runner beans, French beans, beetroot and giant garlic, and decent bunches of grapes in the vinehouse.

After all the cancelled events this year, the combined Challis Fete and Horticultural Show on 4th September was a resounding success. No surprise that many visitors remarked just how much they had missed these events and it was great to be able to enjoy an outdoor event again. The exhibits in the main marquee were as colourful as ever, displaying an impressive range of fruit and vegetables, floral arrangements, cakes, preserves, handicrafts, photos and children’s creations. Wonderful! Many thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to those who won trophies and prizes.

Mr and Mrs Wells – enthusiastic supporters of the show – won two trophies. Mrs Wells gained the most points in the fruit and veg section and between them they were the family with the most points in the entire show by a wide margin. Very well done to them. The Kent family and the Cook family (from Bassingbourne) were second and third respectively for most points won. This year’s trophies were presented by our Patron, Jennifer Crompton:

  • Trustees Trophy (most points in fruit and vegetable classes): Kamlawatee Wells
  • Garden News Trophy (best exhibit in fruit and vegetable section): Justin Whitaker
  • Frank Matthews Trophy (best exhibit in domestic classes): Alison Kent
  • Mary Challis Trophy (best floral exhibit): Ann Redshaw
  • WI Trophy (best handicraft exhibit): Judy Saunders
  • Sue Reeve Trophy (best exhibit in 8 to 12): Sophie Macfarlane
  • John Falkner Trophy (best exhibit 7 and under ): Jessica Kent
  • Chair’s Trophy (family with most points): Mr and
    Mrs Wells
  • Norman Carver Trophy (best exhibit): Judy Saunders

We are grateful to the many organisations and individuals for attending the show and setting up stalls, including the Cambridge Flower Club, Royal British Legion, Old Forge Honey, Wool’n’Tea, Pippa’s Cards, Timebank, Paul Stower (woodturner), Jeanette Cavey (machine-knitting), Eleanor Clapp (spinning wheel) and Morsbags. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone. And last but not least, a huge thank you to the many volunteers and helpers who made the day such a success – not just on the day but for the work and preparation beforehand. Andy Jackson’s auction of produce after the show again provided a very entertaining end to the afternoon! Many thanks, Andy.

Visitors will have noticed the ongoing progress on building work for the new garden museum. Work is complicated by the limited access to the site for larger vehicles, but our builders have got around the problem with admirable ingenuity. What would we do without them? The main gate will remain closed for the foreseeable future, so please continue to use the side-gate on the left as you enter the car park.

We aim to hold our popular Spooky Saturday Halloween event, as usual, on Saturday 30th October from 10am to noon. Look out for more information on our website and Facebook page, and posters in the High Street. Save the date and plan ahead. We look forward to seeing lots of families there. Whooooo!

Mike Redshaw

Published in Sawston Scene, October–November 2021 issue

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Children’s Easter Activity Morning: Saturday 16th April 2022, 10am to 12 noon

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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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