November 2016

Our last event for 2016 – ‘Spooky Saturday’ – was very well attended. Thanks, as usual, to all who came and to our veritable army of volunteers. Great to see so many families in the garden, enjoying the mild late October weather and the many activities on offer: face-painting, a scavenger hunt, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing and biscuit decorating. Mary Challis would have been delighted to see so many people enjoying the garden – this is precisely what she wanted to provide for the village.

We offer our thanks to Greener Sawston for arranging the Bioblitz event in October. This was a taster session to demonstrate the type of methods used for assessing biodiversity – pond-dipping, bat detection, moth-traps and spotting birds. We soon learnt that trapping and catching wildlife is the easy part, but identification can be very challenging! Highlights were the impressive great diving beetles in the pond and a treecreeper, incredibly well camouflaged on the sycamore trunks. It is planned to do a more extensive survey in the spring. We hope more people come along to assist and to discover what lurks in the garden!

The main herbaceous beds were surprisingly colourful into early November – a testament to the careful choice of plants and good husbandry, but also due to the mild weather up to the end of October. Winter work is well underway, the main focus on collecting leaves, cutting back, dividing perennials and mulching bare soil. We give special attention to removing and composting the horse chestnut leaves to help reduce the infestation of the leaf-miner pest that has blighted these trees in recent years. This policy appears to be working; the trees have looked much healthier this year.

Work on refurbishing the derelict garden buildings is nearing completion. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the work. Our thanks to our builders Ray and Graham. Apart from smartening up this part of the garden, the buildings look great and will provide much-needed storage space and a dedicated potting shed. Happy potting, Judy! There are no more formal events this year, but the Mary Challis house will be open for the Winter Fair on Friday 16th December between 5pm and 7pm. Our garden produce – jams, chutneys, honey, apples – will be available. Do drop in to say hello and share a glass or two. We look forward to seeing many of you there. Please note that Sunday opening times are now on the winter schedule: 1pm to 3 pm. Mike Redshaw

Challis Trust Chair Rosie Philips adds: The Winter Fair will see the Challis House dressed for Christmas with many different craftspeople displaying their handmade goods for sale for various charities. We’re hosting Mary Wilson’s famous Sawston pickles, chutneys and conserves as well as our own Challis Garden honey, jams and relishes. Festive music plus mince pies and mulled wine available for a donation to the Challis Trust to enable ongoing restoration work in the house and on the garden buildings.

In the wake of recent extensive building work, the Challis Museum will be presenting its third exhibition, ‘Back to School’, in late Spring 2017. We’re seeking any photos, artefacts, books, equipment or other material suitable for display to do with the widest meaning of Education in Sawston including nursery, primary, secondary, adult, church and chapel, music and sports, outside school and so on. School reports (however bad) would be particularly welcome and can be displayed anonymously on request!

The Challis Trust is looking for a new Trustee – someone with Sawston connections who would be interested in helping to further develop the Mary Challis Museum and Garden, two outstanding assets left to the people of Sawston and the surrounding area some ten years ago by the late Mary Challis.

Helping to organise events, fundraising for the charity and a keen interest in the further development of the house and garden are important aspects of this role. Trustees meet once a month and now that the structure of the house is sound, the ground floor houses a large display area which has already hosted two well-attended exhibitions. This area also acts as a meeting room and is the centre of catering for the several increasingly popular public events we hold each year. Work is now well-advanced on the refurbishment of the first floor which when completed, will provide even more exhibition, library and public meeting space. If you are interested and would like an application form please contact our Chair, Rosie Phillips, at or 01223 560816, or leave a note with your contact details in the letterbox on the wall outside the Challis House at 68 High Street.

This update was printed in the December 2016–January 2017 issue of Sawston Scene