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July 2018

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June proved to be a very busy month for the garden team, with a number of weekend events held and several evening visits by a variety of groups. It’s always a pleasure to see the garden used in this way; that’s what it’s for! The Challis Garden also opened twice during June and July to raise funds for the National Garden Scheme. Our open day raised over £400 and the Open Gardens opening raised nearly £1,300. All these donations go to support several important nursing and caring charities in the UK.

The weather has proved challenging during the long hot spell in late June and early July. The lawns are brown and many shrubs and annual plants are suffering – less mowing and more watering is the order now. Even the mature trees are affected, with a number of branches breaking off due to the extreme dryness. We are endeavouring to keep tender plants alive by frequent watering but there is a limit to what can be achieved. We anticipate many losses later in the year and the coming winter.

On the brighter side, trees and shrubs have blossomed profusely this year. Our specimen trees – false acacia, golden rain tree and Kentucky yellowwood – flowered far better than they have for many seasons. Laburnums, mock orange and flowering currants also gave good displays. Fruit-set on the apples and plums looks good, so we are hoping for good crops this autumn. Blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries and tayberries are giving good crops, but the summer raspberries are disappointing.

The local wildlife seems to be flourishing. There are numerous bumblebees, butterflies and moths in the flower beds, with dragonflies and damselflies around the pond. Blue tits, great tits, coal tits, wrens, robins, blackcaps, goldcrests and mistle thrushes, among others, have all nested successfully. One keen photographer took some excellent photos of the three mistle thrush chicks in the nest before they fledged (see above).

The museum and archive team are working hard sorting and cataloguing the collection of material in the house. A history research group are also at work; one of their first projects is to collect and disseminate histories of some buildings in Sawston High Street, in collaboration with Sawston Scene. The museum is experimenting with opening on the first Saturday of the month in addition to the current Tuesday mornings. Volunteers to help with the openings and the research are always welcome at these times. Without volunteers we cannot open.

Our next major event is the Challis Horticultural Show on Saturday 1st September. We are keen to attract more entries from Sawston and our neighbouring villages. There is something for everyone – fruit and vegetables, cookery, flower arrangements, handicrafts and children’s classes. Do give it a try if you haven’t entered before. It’s good fun and a great afternoon’s entertainment. There is a beekeeping stand again and various stalls, not to mention our popular Pimm’s tent and homemade cakes. Entry forms for the Show will be available from the garden nearer the time or can be downloaded from our website.

It was very sad indeed to hear that one of our most dedicated supporters and former trustee Richard Maunder passed away in early June. Richard and Marilyn Maunder were among a group of volunteers who came together to start clearing the garden and outbuildings, which had been neglected for far too long. Over the years, they have given countless hours to help bring the garden to what it is today. Marilyn became a trustee in the early days, and in 2008 Richard took on the role of treasurer and gave several valuable years managing the trust’s finances in a very professional way. They both stood down as trustees in 2008 and continued as volunteers in the garden. Richard and Marilyn were also instrumental in reviving the village horticultural show in the Challis Garden, running it until 2016.

Richard was a very generous donor to the Challis Museum. In particular, he presented a delightful parlour piano, circa 1820, which he had restored and re-strung himself. He was a very talented man. The piano has pride of place in the Victorian Parlour.

It was very fitting to accommodate Richard’s wake in the Challis Garden. He would have liked that. The trustees acknowledge Richard’s commitment and support over the years and wish to express their sincere condolences to Marilyn and the family. Richard will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. Mike Redshaw 

Published in Sawston Scene, August–September 2018

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