Sunday, 23 July 2017

A heavyweight or not?

Goostrey show in action
Kelvin Archer with world beating berry
  A Dunkirk spirit will be needed by growers poised this week for the annual battle of the bushes as gooseberries come under attack from a combined force of weather, disease and pests. Only several weeks ago all looked well as the fruit ripened and grew gently under their protective netting for the Mid Cheshire shows beginning on Saturday. But fickle weather, blowing hot and cold and late season torrents of rain, is doing its best to dampen the prospect of weighing in with a world-beating berry. Now, it will be a case of standing firm and rescuing the best from the trees before they burst. Terry Price, Goostrey Gooseberry Society's  current champion and show President, says reports suggest that all growers in the area are struggling to keep berries on the bushes. "I don't think there will be any records this year," says Terry. "They are busting all over and the heavy rain is finishing off a lot."  Terry, whose Just Betty gooseberry of 24 pennyweights and 22 grains, won the show at The Crown Inn last year, is hoping for a better result this time. Several weeks ago a berry from the same tree weighed 30 pennyweights but now like other growers the prospect doesn't look good. He added: "I think if someone can hold on to a berry of 28 pennyweights it is likely to be the heaviest in our show or any other. They are all struggling" Best of the bunch is expected to be among yellow berry varieties such as Woodpecker, Millenium or Montrose. Later shows in August may have the smallest berries of the year to put on the scales for the annual heavyweight whopper. And the overall champion in the fiercely-fought contests might be decided by a whisker! Visitors are welcome to watch the Goostrey Gooseberry Show - as all other shows - at The Crown starting on Saturday at 1 pm.A Junior Show won last year by Joe Banks Williams, eight, is again open to all under 16-year-olds who live in Goostrey and the surrounding area. His winning Woodpecker berry weighed 16 pennyweights and five grains. A prize draw on the day includes dinner for two at the Yellow Broom, Twemlow Green.
**The world record berry is a Millenium of 41 pennyweights 11 grains grown in 2013 by Kelvin Archer, a member of the Marton
and Lower Withington shows. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017


  Goostrey's oldest villager, Mrs Ruth Hough, has died only months after she moved into a home in the area. Ruth, who was 102,  lived in Brookfield Crescent and until recent times continued to take an active interest in local life and events. She was a regular member of the congregation  at St Luke's parish church where, with her late husband Ron, a former head teacher at Goostrey primary school, she was also a bellringer for many years. Her memories of local life will live on after her recollections were recorded on tape by Goostrey Archive Group for its oral history collection. She also "starred" in a radio documentary of author Alan Garner's nativity play "Bringing Holly from the Bongs" which was first performed in now demolished stables behind the Crown Inn 51 years ago. As part of the  BBC Radio 4 Extra programme about the play broadcast on Christmas Day 2015 she was interviewed as one of the behind the scenes helpers by producer Andy Cartwright along with original members of the cast who were pupils at Goostrey school. A villager said: "Ruth was an amazing woman. She took a tremendous interest in Goostrey and its organisations. Even at her advanced age, in recent times she continued to play bridge and went to church, but in the end I think she just wanted to slip away peacefully and quietly."
A former neighbour JulieAnn Leigh-Lockett, who now lives in Grand Island, New York State, with her family writes:
" She was a wonderful lady.She taught me how to make a hundred sandwiches from on tin of salmon for rose day refreshments and how to make perfect marmalade without bubbles, just like she did for the Women's Institute. I lived right next door to her for many years. A sad loss for all of us with memories".
Mrs Audrey Godfrey, the wife of the late Rev Ian Godfrey, vicar of Goostrey, who died last year, also has fond memories of Ruth,
She said: "Even though we were here for a short time,  my lasting memory of her will be with Ian and Ruth sitting in wheelchairs next to one another holding hands watching the Rose Queen place her wreath on the memorial at St. Luke’s last year. I said to Ian ‘are you two timing me?’ he replied ‘of course’ and Ruth chipped in ‘and haven’t I found myself a corker’! Happy days."

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Richard Jepson mans the pumps
A sample of the Bottle Bank's offerings
With pubs shutting at an alarming rate and turning into supermarket owned convenience stores, it is a blessed relief to see the trend locally has been reversed. Richard Jepson, who has hosted The Beer Emporium in Sandbach since taking over in July, has expanded his craft beer, wines, spirits bar and shop and take-out to the centre of Holmes Chapel. It was a blow I guess for customers to see the departure of the Nat West Bank from the village but Richard's venture in the former premises more than makes up for the loss - at least for the aficionado of real ales and other favourite tipples. The bar’s opening – named the Bottle Bank - happened sans fuss or fanfare. It was only when  I noticed a couple of iron tables and seats on the pavement outside the old bank building in London Road did I realise he  was open for business. Richard formerly worked in telecoms but the bearded mine host in charge of the hand-pumps – looking every inch  a jolly brewmaster - admits beer is his real passion. Lots on offer is locally brewed, including Merlin from just up the road at Arclid as well as brews from places around including Mobberley, Macclesfield, Wincle and Congleton but, like the Sandbach bar, it provides beers from around the world, and also like the Beer Emporium, will soon be boasting and offering some 400 different ales, lagers, and cider to take away or drink in, once in full swing. The Bottle Bank reminds me a bit of times before pubs were “poshed” up and fine dining became the norm… a place where you can stand at the bar and feel you don’t have to fork out for a meal!    Richard says local pubs have been very supportive of the enterprise which he believes will help to attract more visitors to the village. We should say cheers to that and wish Richard every success!
*Click on pictures to enlarge

Thursday, 30 March 2017


WARNING.....Light-fingered thieves are out and about in the area. In a spate of raids, gardens have been targeted. The latest incident happened this week when a large blue ceramic pot with growing conifer was nicked from the front garden of a house in Brookfield Crescent, Goostrey.
 The theft was discovered on Tuesday. "The pot was so heavy it would have taken two people to have lifted it," says the owner. Last week in a heavy bench was lifted from a garden in Jodrell Bank.
 And this week in Holmes Chapel white metal fencing disappeared from Wye Close, but mysteriously returned after a threat to put CCTV footage online.
There have been reports of a blue van trawling the area on the lookout for easy to steal items in gardens and unlocked buildings. There may be many other thefts which have still to come to light.
Cheshire Police yesterday issued a warning about thefts in the county following the clocks being put forward. Victims are advised to contact police by calling 101.

Friday, 24 March 2017


A very sad day today for the family and many friends of Kevan Royle who died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His funeral at Vale Royal Crematorium reflected the regard and affection in which he was held not only in Goostrey where he lived with his wife, Sylvia, and inseparable soul mate of 54 years but among all areas of his personal and business life with 200 mourners seated and dozens more standing for the service and celebration of his life. Kevan, 77, was an engineer by profession and locally in Holmes Chapel formerly owned a business producing aerosols before dedicating an entrepreneurial flair to building and restoring and upscaling properties, including his home in Brookfield Crescent, and a project in Nantwich that won him official recognition and accolades.The service included his son-in-law Nigel Llewellyn describing many of Kevan's attributes, his kindness, warmth, his love of friendships in the Crown and for his village. "He was part of the DNA of Goostrey... and a lovely man..."

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The  Everyday story of Goostrey in the 1970s...

Here is another episode of Granada TV Goostrey the Village, courtesy of Ken Morris who loaned the discs for Dave Burnham to weave his magic to make them available to view on social media - and also big thanks to James Lockett, originally from Goostrey, who shared an episode from his home in the US.
Some of the footage is a repeat of the first episode previously on blogs from the bongs but with fewer edits.

Click or copy this link to access:

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Yester House undergoing restoration

 The man and his wife on their picture-book lawn looked up as we sauntered
past and were puzzled when I said we hadn't been able to see
Main street of Gifford with parish church

the big house. "Och, ye jest go along the pathway. Nay one will bother," said the man.  There's noo law of trespass in Scotland." I was in Gifford in East Lothian, with my pal and former work colleague Mike Arron, hoping to get a glimpse of Yester House, a baronial mansion set among 500 acres of estate and woodland. The way in we found is barred by enormous iron gates and private signs since it was bought by Gareth Wood, the son of Sir Ian Wood, the oil tycoon, and his wife,  Nicola, a former Miss Scotland.  We didn't know of this of course until we Googled the estate  to discover it is undergoing a major injection of funding  for restoration and modernisation on a massive scale following its sale for a reputed £8 million -  half its asking price of eight years ago.  Still, at the price the 14-bedroom mansion is labelled as the country's most expensive house and we were also intrigued to learn that it had even caught the eye of Lady Gaga. We could have taken a footpath through the estate for some five miles but in the event, short on time and eager to explore this delightful village and more of  an off-beat area of Scotland, we abandoned thoughts of viewing the historic pile, trespass or not, nor did we venture inside its two fine hostelries, the Tweeddale Arms and the Goblin Ha' supposedly named after an underground
Square at Gifford

Story of Gifford on the street 
chamber of the 13th century ruined Yester castle on the estate. Instead we
strode up the gentle slope of the broad village street to the brilliant white painted church whose origins begin with its consecration in 1241. The church and surrounding graveyard are immaculately maintained.   A bell  dated 1492 -  significantly the year Columbus reputedly discovered America  - and rung every Sunday is all that remains of the original church which was replaced in the 18th century. The list of ministers are recorded from 1572 but of  particular interest to Americans taking time off from attractions of Edinburgh to visit the Scottish coastal plain is John Witherspoon. He is commemorated in a large plaque on a wall near the church as the only clergyman to sign the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. He become president of Princeton College,New Jersey, in 1768 and was the first Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of America. A little peckish after our  cultural venture into Gifford's past, the Lanterne Rouge, from the outside an unpretentious cafe beloved of cyclists, was the ideal point to finish the visit with two bacon rolls and a large pot of tea. We heard it had been a bit of a "greasy spoon" in the past but now under the ownership of Cameron McVean  it sparkles, becoming a must eat place for visitors and locals alike. East Lothian  is largely off the radar of many visitors to Scotland. It is relatively undiscovered - except I am told by the Dutch - unlike more famous Highland destinations, but within a compact area south east of Edinburgh flanking the southern edge of the Firth of Forth, is some of the most spectacular coastline to be found in Britain. Meadows and fields where crops are sown and reaped virtually to the edge of the sea offer amazing vistas. Historic towns and attractions abound, even a racecourse at Musselborough, for aircraft enthusiasts the National Museum of Flight, a brace of castles, and even the ubiquitous distillery where tours end with a wee dram of a Glenkinchie single malt. And for good measure there is Preston Mill owned by the National Trust of Scotland with the last working water wheel in East Lothian. One of the furthest communities along the A1 from Edinburgh and with a direct rail link,Dunbar is in attractive commuter distance from the capital and, so far, unlike fashionable North Berwick to the north east has lower property prices for those intending to re-locate or retire to the coast, a point not lost on developers. Like its nearest inland neighbour Haddington, a royal Scottish burgh and county town of Haddingtonshire, it has a wide central market area, with local shops and a surprising amount of fine dinning for its size in the harbour area. Off the coast is the Bass Rock, a white-capped island spattered with millions of droppings of 150,000 nesting gannets in the breeding season, and described by Sir David Attenborough as one of the wildlife centres of the world.
Gated entrance to Yester House
 Yester Castle in 19th century
+How to get there: Fly to Edinburgh,  look for direct trains to towns like Dunbar, or simply head by car to East Lothian.
Old village pump
Travel tip: If like me you live within easy access to Manchester Airport rail station, start the journey from there to destinations in Scotland and the North.
More information : Search the internet for
*Pictures copyright John Williams. Click twice to enlarge.
Sun setting over Dunbar copyright Mike Arron

Harvesting near St Abbs, East Lothian

Fields down to the sea

Storm gathers over Dunbar harbour
Sheltered harbour at St Abbs

Sunset at the "Bridge to Nowhere" Dunbar
Pic: Mike Arron