November 2022

Our new garden building is really starting to take shape now the roof is finished and scaffolding taken down. The external finish of Cambridge brick, flint panels and plaster reflects the building styles in the vicinity. There is still much to do, with window-frames and glazing, flooring, electrics, insulation and heating to install. We hope you like the look of the new building. We do! The main gate will be open again (hoorah!), provided there is no structural work going on, so please enter the garden there rather than the side gate.

We were very pleased with the turnout for our Spooky Saturday Hallowe’en event at the end of October. It was great to see so many happy – and scary! – faces and indeed many new ones. Thank you to everyone who attended and for joining in the spirit of the event, and to the many helpers and volunteers. All the activities proved very popular, especially the Spooky trail, face-painting and pumpkin-carving. Special thanks are due to Gita, Suresh and Ann for setting up the Spooky trail, to Audrey and Renate for supervising the face-painting, to Andy for his inventive soups and to Chris Baker and her team for scooping out fifty pumpkins – not the nicest of tasks on a cool damp morning! Looking forward to next year’s event already.

At the time of writing – on Armistice Day – the poppy display in the front garden of the Challis House looks stunning. We are very pleased to support the Royal British Legion on this important occasion in the nation’s annual calendar. Well done to everyone involved in creating this beautiful exposition. This annual remembrance is a poignant reminder of the horrors of war, given what’s going on elsewhere in the world right now. Lest we forget….

This unseasonably mild weather – up to ten degrees warmer than average in November! – has meant prolonged autumn flowering. Asters, dahlias, penstemons and even begonias and geraniums are still blooming well, adding lots of colour to the herbaceous borders and window boxes. We normally plant out winter and spring bedding now but we are reluctant to uproot such colourful plants. The flush of annuals weeds is keeping us very busy, as we aim to clean up the beds prior to applying leaf mould and garden compost. If the dry summers and moist, mild winters continue, we will have to radically review what and where to plant in the garden. These are indeed strange times we live in.

It is very difficult to predict how the garden will progress in the coming months. If the mild weather continues, we may be in for a very early spring, with carpets of snowdrops, aconites, crocuses and daffodils to look forward to. Whatever the weather, it is well worth taking a stroll along the winter/spring border to enjoy the colours and fragrances of winter-flowering shrubs, especially Mahonia spp., shrub honeysuckles, Viburnums, Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) and witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.). Multi-coloured dogwoods (Cornus spp.) are at their best in the new year, showing their red, green and yellow stems to best effect, and set off the underplanted hellebores and spring bulbs. Lots to admire.

All the wooden garden furniture and donated benches have been put into storage for the winter, including the stunning circular bench that Pearl Mann recently gifted in memory of her husband Paul. Both have given a lot of time and expert local knowledge to the Challis Trust from its inception, both in the garden and museum. We are immensely grateful for their contribution to establishing this wonderful asset for the village.

As ever, there are plenty of gifts and goodies to view in the garden. Our bees have been busy this year, making lots of lovely mixed floral summer honey. We processed some of the bumper apple crop to make 150 bottles of apple juice; thanks again to one and all for donating their surplus apples. Our log stores are full if you need to top up for the winter. All this plus our own Challis tea towels, cards and plants are available for a donation. You need look no further for some interesting local gifts for the Christmas season.

A reminder that the garden remains open throughout the winter on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons. Please refer to the opening times in the Directory. We look forward to seeing you there.

Please note also that the Challis House is open every Tuesday morning from 10am to noon to view the Queen’s Jubilee Exhibition and the museum itself. The next exhibition will be about Sawston streets named after local people. If you have any information, records or photos about these people and the streets, please get in touch with us.

Finally, the Mary Challis Trust would like to express sincere condolences to the family and friends of Judy Saunders on her untimely and sudden passing. Judy was a long-term friend and supporter of the trust, along with the Wool’n’Tea craft group, which she ran for many years, holding regular meetings here. She always entered the Horticultural Show with a range of wonderful creations, and surpassed herself in recent years by winning ‘Best in Show’ for the last three years in succession – a remarkable achievement from a remarkable lady. She will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her.

Mike Redshaw