January 2018

At the start of a new year, it’s always good to reflect on the previous year. What have we achieved? Well, quite a lot actually. We ran our third exhibition, ‘Back to School’, in the house, which generated a lot of interest from Sawston residents. In the garden, we held seven major public events (Easter Saturday, Anniversary Fete, Bioblitz weekend, NGS open gardens, Jo Cox memorial picnic, Horticultural Show and Spooky Saturday). We also hosted eight booked visits and several private parties and youth groups. Overall, the garden catered for a wide range of activities and meetings, involving a number of Sawston organisations.

Our events are well established on the Sawston calendar and we hope to see more people visiting the garden this year. Of course, none of this would be possible without the dedicated and enthusiastic support of our many volunteers – too many to mention individually – for which the trustees offer their wholehearted thanks.

Please note that the schedule of events for 2018 is listed on the inside cover of this issue. The Easter Children’s Activity Morning is on Saturday 31st March, rather early this year. All events are in the Sawston Scene Diary, and in the Friday email, a weekly reminder of events in the diary (sign up at www.sawstonscene.org/the-friday-email).

Writing in mid-January, it seems the seasons get earlier each year. Some snowdrops and aconites are already in flower. Crocuses, daffodils and bluebells are pushing through the soil. February and March are the best months to see the early spring bulbs, with veritable carpets of white, blue and yellow blooms. On a bright spring morning, it is an inspiring sight. Do drop in and have a look. And take a stroll down the winter/spring walk to smell the intense fragrance from sweet box, shrub honeysuckle, Viburnum fragrans and mahonia. The dogwoods – with their bright yellow, orange, red and green stems – and hellebores are also at their best then.

We aim to take out a few more sycamore saplings this spring to reduce shade and allow underplanted shrubs and small trees to flourish. More ground cover and shade-tolerant plants will be added to augment these ‘woodland’ plantings. It’s a long-term project but we are making progress. In the far corner of the garden, we will plant a small hazel coppice and allow brambles to establish to create a productive yet wildlife-friendly patch.

The main objective of the trust for 2018 is to complete the refurbishment and decorating of Mary Challis’s house, number 68 High Street. This will allow us to complete the transfer of the Sawston Village History Society archives from the Parish Council office for long-term storage. We gratefully acknowledge the good co-operation of SVHS to facilitate this process. The collection of documents and artefacts will be properly collated and archived as a resource for the village. It is hoped there will be enough volunteers to act as archivists during regular opening times, to assist visitors to locate information and view documents. Details will be given in due course.

For the safe keeping of the village archives, further improvements are needed to heating, ventilation and security. Clearly, the right climatic conditions must be achieved to ensure these records are maintained in good condition for future generations. We will ensure this is properly implemented. When the house is fully finished, it will provide space for permanent displays and exhibition rooms, a meeting room, an office, a library and storage space for archives. We can’t wait to see it completed!

It is with great sadness we learned that our former Chair and Patron, Brian Butler, died in early January after a long illness. Brian was involved with the trust for many years and a very effective Chair, directing the trust in keeping with Mary Challis’s wishes. He was instrumental in refurbishing the garden and doing essential building work on the house. Of course, the services of his building company T Butler & Sons were particularly helpful in the early years, which is duly acknowledged here. He resigned as Chair in November 2014 and has remained an Honorary Patron since then. We are extremely grateful for Brian’s commitment to realising the aims of the Challis Trust, without which the house and garden would not be the success they are today. The trustees offer sincere condolences to Brian’s family and especially to his wife Dorothy. Mike Redshaw 

Published in the February–March 2018 issue of Sawston Scene