March 2018

Writing this at the beginning of March, it seems we are still in the grips of winter, feeling the effects of the ‘Beast from the East’ (or was it hysteria from Siberia?) sweeping across the country causing widespread travel chaos. Although we didn’t fare too badly here, it was bitterly cold. The early onset of spring in February has been put on hold and it remains to be seen how the garden plants recover in the coming weeks. Snowdrops were at their peak in late February but the very cold spell brought that to an early close.

With normal weather resuming, we can now look forward to displays of crocuses, followed by daffodils into April, tulips and then bluebells. Our winter/spring border is still very colourful and should show well into April. Fruit trees and ornamental cherries will also be in flower in the coming weeks – a welcome sight and a real sign that summer is on the way. Do visit us during our normal opening times. And remember there’s always fresh produce, preserves, logs and plants available from the garden throughout the year.

We plan to remove a few more sycamore trees from the ‘woodland’ area, which hopefully will have been done by the time this issue comes out. Visitors can see changes in this part of the garden, with recently planted shrubs, small trees and evergreens establishing, under-planted with bluebells and other shade-tolerant plants. More hellebores, bluebells, winter box (Sarcococca) and Hypericum will be planted as infills where appropriate.

In the far south-west corner of the garden, we have planted a number of hazel seedlings to develop a small copse. This will provide a regular supply of poles and plant supports for the main herbaceous borders and raised vegetable beds. We are also encouraging brambles, foxgloves and nettles to establish in this corner, to provide nesting sites for warblers and finches, and food for butterflies and bumblebees. Our honeybees will also benefit from an early source of pollen from the hazels and some late summer foraging on the brambles.

The Easter Saturday Children’s Event will be early this year, on the last day of March, so it is not covered in this issue. I trust the weather will be kind and all goes well! Our Anniversary Fete, to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the official opening of the garden, is on Sunday 20th May from 2pm. Do come along and enjoy live music from Sawston Steel Band while sampling teas, home-made cakes and soup from our kitchen. There will be a range of activities including craft stalls, giant garden games, bottle stall, tombola and more to entertain you.

The last phase of internal building work and decorating in the Mary Challis House should be finished in he coming period. When complete, there will be static displays and exhibitions on the ground floor, a library, meeting room and period bathroom on the first floor, and an office and archive storage on the top floor. We have now transferred nearly all the village history archives and artefacts from the parish council offices to the house. A team of archivists and helpers, led by Mary Dicken, have been busy sorting, cataloguing and storing these items. It is intended to have a formal opening of the library and archive storage at the end of April. Quite an achievement and a huge milestone for the Challis Trust! We will need more help in the house to complete the archiving and to assist visitors during regular opening hours once the museum and archives are ready to view. If you are interested in helping, please do get in touch.

Please note that our Sunday opening times revert to the usual summer hours of 2pm to 4pm from Sunday 25th March. Mike Redshaw

Published in Sawston Scene, April–May 2018