May 2019

It is disappointing to have to report that we suffered a spate of vandalism in April. Considerable damage was done to furniture, trees and other items in the garden. The experience was extremely dispiriting for the many volunteers who put in countless hours to maintain this wonderful place and asset for the village. Such mindless acts will not be tolerated and we are vigorously pursuing leads to identify those responsible.

It was very heartening, therefore, to hold a very successful Easter Saturday children’s event at the end of this episode – a well-needed fillip for all of us involved in the Challis Garden. It was a reassuring day and it reminded us why we contribute so much time to the Trust and to see the great pleasure it gives to visitors. One happy visitor wrote in to say “Aged 3 to 70+ we had a great time in a relaxed, happy and safe atmosphere, enjoying sunshine, refreshments and the children’s activities. Everyone’s efforts were much appreciated.” Well spoken indeed!

We thank everyone who attended for their support and loyalty. In future, any trespassers will be well and truly composted!

The weather so far this year has been very unpredictable, swinging from mini-heatwaves to prolonged cool spells, and very little rain to be seen. The ground is still very dry, so we are having to spend a lot of time watering. Good that we replaced our bore-hole pump last year! The garden team are raising large numbers of bedding plants – geraniums, begonias, zinnias, rudbeckias – to fill out the main summer beds. Despite the inclement weather, we look forward to full colourful herbaceous borders this summer. The local wildlife is thriving in the garden, with many butterflies and bees to be seen, and lots of birdsong from resident blackcaps, thrushes, finches, wrens and goldcrests. Delightful!

Unfortunately, our annual anniversary fete falls too late in May to get a mention in this issue. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the formal opening of the garden on 17th May 2009. In addition to the main attractions of Sawston Steel Band and Cambridge Flower Club, more stalls and stands are planned this year. Weather permitting, we hope for a good turnout again.

Two further events to look forward to in June and July. Firstly, we are again opening the garden for the afternoon of 16th June in memory of Jo Cox MP. This is now a nationwide event, encouraging people to spend time and share a meal together. Do come along, bring family and friends for a picnic in the garden (sorry, no barbecues). There will be garden games available for children (and older ones!) and plenty of space to relax or let off steam.
The Challis Garden is participating again in the National Garden Scheme along with two other Sawston gardens on Sunday 7th July. There will be plants for sale on the day and the house and museum will also be open. Sweet Tea café will be opening specially, in support of the event, serving cream teas and other treats on the day. What nicer way to relax and enjoy a garden on a Sunday afternoon?

In the Mary Challis house, the museum and archive team are pressing on with sorting and cataloguing our collections. The museum is very well supported, with volunteers working in two teams. At present, one is focusing on cataloguing the many photograph and postcard albums. The other is sorting and cataloguing the collection of artefacts acquired mainly by the Village History Society. New exhibitions are being planned, including a possible one about cooperative societies in Sawston; the first was set up by local businesses in 1867. With the return of the Co-op to the village, it’s appropriate to have their input but they are proving slow to respond to requests for information.

Next year sees the 50th anniversary of Sawston Scene (yes, it really has been going for that long!) which is another worthwhile subject for an exhibition. We are very happy to receive suggestions for possible new exhibitions; if readers have any ideas, please do get in touch. Please note that the museum and archives are open to the public every Tuesday morning 10am to 12 noon, and on Saturday mornings by appointment only. Larger groups can arrange a visit to the house at other times by making a booking. Mike Redshaw

Published in the June–July 2019 issue of Sawston Scene