November 2019

Our Spooky Saturday event on Saturday 26th October again proved to be very popular with villagers. It was wonderful this year to see many new families coming to enjoy a happy and fun morning in the garden in good autumn weather – mild but windy. I suspect many more people would have joined us were it not for England’s Rugby World Cup semi-final match that morning! In the event, more than forty pumpkins were carved and taken home for Hallowe’en. Many thanks to the volunteers for helping with the carving, face-painting, crafts, scavenger hunt, soup kitchen and teas. Unfortunately for us, a tent we put up for the pumpkin carving was ripped out of the ground and blown over the chicken sheds by very strong gusts during the night. It will have to be replaced next year. On the upside, England won their match!

This was our last event for 2019. Please note that we will not be holding a wreath-making workshop this year, but the Challis House will open for the Winter Fair on Friday 6th December, so do please drop in to say hello and share some mulled wine and mince pies. It’s also a good opportunity to pick up some Christmas presents from the craft stands in the house. We will also have our very own Challis tea towels on offer, with a beautiful house and garden design by Fran Godwood.

The mild autumn – so far! – has extended the flowering season well into November. Some dahlias were scorched by ground frosts in late October, but there is still a lot of colour in the main herbaceous beds, notably asters, Gaura, penstemons, sedums and salvias. Gaura is an interesting addition to our flowerbeds, a low-maintenance, hardy plant that flowers throughout summer and autumn. A good ‘doer’, as Monty Don would say. The full botanical name is Gaura lindheimeri, originating from North America, also called wandflower, whirling butterfly or bee blossom. The variety we have is ‘Passionate Rainbow’, producing numerous delicate pretty pink flowers on waving ‘wands’. We have taken many cuttings to propagate stock for next season.

The garden volunteers have been very busy preparing for winter – collecting leaves, spreading leaf mulch on the winter/spring border, digging over the vegetable beds, pruning shrubs, and so on. There is always plenty to do at this time of the year. We received some very welcome help for some of this work from a group of volunteers from Astra Zeneca, based at Chesterford Park. It was a productive and fun day, helping us to catch up with some outstanding tasks. Community volunteering is becoming increasingly popular; we have hosted two groups this year, and look forward to more groups in the future. Many thanks to the Astra Zeneca team for volunteering their time for us.

There is no progress to report, sadly, on the proposed building for a garden museum. We are still awaiting approval from the planning authorities, which is taking an inordinate amount of time. It was hoped to make a start on ground works before winter but this now seems unlikely. Meanwhile, we are progressing with identifying artefacts to go into the museum. The next step is to clean, prepare and label items – no small matter!

Our museum and archive volunteers continue to work through the archive material and artefacts in the house, with a regular Tuesday morning session. The house is open at this time, so if you want to have a look around and talk to our stewards, this is the time to visit. One team is preparing material for our next exhibition on shopping and Co-operative Societies, planned to run from 18th January to 28th March in the New Year. One of the first co-operative societies in England started in Sawston in 1867 and the Co-op itself has maintained a presence in the village for over a hundred years. It makes an interesting subject for an exhibition, with a lot of local interest.

Mike Redshaw

Published in the December 2019–January 2020 issue of Sawston Scene