January 2022

Looking back twelve months to what I had penned this time last year, there was a lot of hope that things would get back to normal and we would be able to run a full programme of events in 2021! Little did any of us expect that twelve months later we would be where we are now. However, the exceptionally successful vaccine roll-out has made a huge difference and we feel more confident now that we can keep the garden open and hold events throughout the year.

Details of our proposed programme of events for 2022 are on page 2. In addition to our regular events, we plan to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in early June with a new exhibition in the Challis House – details in due course. We also hope to have Half Cut Theatre return in the summer with their witty and entertaining take on popular Shakespearean and modern plays.

As noted in previous articles, the Challis Garden has never been so busy, with more and more people finding this tranquil and safe haven in the heart of the village. We certainly hope our regular visitors will continue to use the garden even as other venues start to re-open. The many groups and clubs who met and practised here last year are also very welcome to hold regular sessions.

A lot was achieved in the garden last year, helped by the addition of many new volunteers, for which we are very thankful. Besides all the regular garden maintenance work, we made improvements to our gift and plant stalls, refurbished some garden furniture, renovated the front garden, and planted some new areas with spring bulbs, cyclamen and foxgloves, which will add interest from spring through to autumn.

Plans for the coming year include paving in front of the chicken sheds, improving disabled access across the car park, and installing a water feature and some new plantings in the vicinity of the new building. The last one depends, of course, on when the new building is completed pending favourable weather and approval of the planning authorities. All being well, we hope to open the building with a new exhibition some time later this year. We’ve also had a generous grant from Sawston Fun Run towards the cost of making improvements to disabled access in the car park.

We plan to establish some ‘dead hedges’ along sections of our boundary. This is a useful way of utilising garden waste, simply stacking pruned material, dead stems and cut branches to form a barrier. This organic matter gradually breaks down, releasing nutrients back to the soil and providing a great habitat for insects, birds and amphibians. It also means less time and effort disposing of this material and substantially reduces the amount to be burnt each year. What’s not to like?

The museum and archives remain closed until Covid restrictions are relaxed to allow visitors into the house again. Who knows when this might be? Meanwhile, the museum team are pressing on with sorting and cataloguing the many archives, records and photographs in our collection. It is an onerous task, but some recently installed cataloguing software will facilitate the work.

The coming period of February to March is the best time to enjoy the early floral displays in the garden. Our winter/spring walk has colourful dogwoods repeated along the border, under-planted with snowdrops and crocuses and interspersed with a number of winter- and spring-flowering shrubs, notably Christmas box (Sarcococca), shrub honeysuckles, Viburnum fragrans and Mahonia. The drifts of snowdrops, aconites and daffodils are another spring highlight, brightening up large areas of the lawns and orchard. Crocuses have spread and naturalised along the footpath leading to the summerhouse, an inspiring sight on a sunny spring day. But don’t take my word for it – do drop in to see for yourself!

For those of you with woodburners or open fires, we have a good stock of logs for sale. Ask one of our volunteers to assist if needed. Keep safe and stay warm. 

Mike Redshaw

Platinum Jubilee Appeal

The Challis Trust hopes to have a display in the House to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with material showing how Sawston has celebrated in the past. We should be very pleased to be loaned any photographs or accounts of celebrations and also any recollections and photographs from those who have met or seen the Queen. Any items you lend us can be copied and so originals will not need to be displayed. If you have any such items please get in touch either in person at a time when the garden is open, or by email to chair@challistrust.org.uk

Mary Dicken, Challis Trust Secretary

Published in the February–March 2022 Sawston Scene