Sunday, 25 August 2013
|Kelvin shows the world champion at Rode Hall|
Everyone said the Holy Grail of the gooseberry growing fraternity would come back to Cheshire from their Yorkshire rivals at Egton Bridge. Now in something of a near miracle and the upside-down climate, the record for the world's heaviest berry has returned - weeks after the end of the official growing season. And Cheshire's gooseberry men were not surprised to learn that it was Kelvin Archer who regained the prized title - lost in 2009- with a berry the biggest recorded in something like 300 years! The monster Millennium-named fruit tipped the scales at 41 pennyweights 11 grains after it was plucked from a bush at Rode Hall where Kelvin is head gardener to Sir Richard Baker Wilbraham and family. One of Kelvin's berries named Ann Archer in honour of his wife took the premier award at this year's Lower Withington show, but it was a tiddler in comparison with the world-beater. In the hall's Victorian kitchen garden where visitors delight in floral displays, Kelvin kept a keen eye on the bulging fruit as it continued to thrive among the ranks of gooseberries long after the village shows were over for the summer. "The seasons this year have been so different that everything in the garden has been three weeks behind," says Kelvin. "I thought I would see how long the berry would last as it was nowhere near ripe. Normally all the gooseberries would have burst by now but this is still as solid as anything. I'm sure it could have made another five pennyweights if it had been left to grow." A special weighing session was arranged, conforming with Guinness Book of Records rules, at Marton where Kelvin captured his previous world record in 1993 with a Montrose berry of 39 pennyweights 19 grains on the same set of scales. Surrounded by witnesses from the Mid-Cheshire Association and long-time growers from local shows, including Goostrey's Tom Mcartney and Terry Price, the larger-than golf ball sized fruit was weighed by veteran enthusiast, Peter Buxton, from Marton. When it toppled the world-record holder, Bryan Nellist, by a couple of pennyweights, if there were no actual whoops of goosegob joy there was celebration at Kelvin's success. "Everyone was really pleased the world record was back in Cheshire," said Kelvin. "We sent it off to the Guinness Book of Records to be verified as the world record but it will take about six weeks before it is confirmed." Kelvin, as do all top growers, encourages new blood but ask how he produces really big berries and the response is a little vague. It boils down to feeding the trees but it is what you feed them - that is his secret recipe!
|The world's heaviest berry|
*Words and pictures copyright John Williams
Monday, 12 August 2013
|The wrongly sited village sign|
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Somehow I thought it wouldn't be long before a blog follower would dish up a little digital magic in response to my challenge to imprint Prince Charles on the gooseberry named to celebrate his birth, Peter Goode's winning fruit at Goostrey Gooseberry Show. I have to thank Bernard Tuck from Cobweb Cottage, Jodrell Bank, for his prompt response and, as you can see, I think a great picture of his Royal Highness with an expression on his face that can only say "Camilla, they are going to turn me into a gooseberry tart.." Hope HRH doesn't take offence and send his men down to the village with orders to "...orf with their heads!" Bernard worked in publishing until early retirement six years ago and he has since freelanced in marketing, brochure design and photography for clients including the owners of the Crown and The Dog, Over Peover. I have to confess in all the excitement about the week-end gooseberry show I failed to mention two of the youngest entrants, Abigail Burgess, nine, and 13-year-old Georgina Turner who both won places with berries. My thanks again to Bernard for sending me the Prince Charles image and to Peter Goode's father-in-law, Alan Perrin for suggesting the idea, a thought worthy of any newspaper picture desk on a "Royal" day!
Sunday, 28 July 2013
|Peter Goode celebrates with his Prince Charles|
I shouldn't say this of course but I thought hard-nosed gooseberry growers would prefer to pluck a large luscious fruit from their bushes than raise a glass or two in welcoming the Royal birth. Yet in a village like Goostrey you can never tell what drama the annual Gooseberry Show will produce on a day fraught with not a little tension after months of nurturing and raising the prized fruit. So it was at the week-end at the appropriately called Crown Inn that Royalty dashed the hopes of many would be champions. Just when all thought was on the Battle of the Berries with traditional titles, Peter Goode, somewhat of a dark horse but a consistent grower all the same, produced a Royal heavyweight to clinch the award for the premier berry at the century-old show. His Prince Charles fruit raised on his allotment in Allostock weighed in at 29 pennyweights and seven grains to win the trophy. It was not lost in all the excitement the berry was named to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Wales almost 65 years ago - and, yes to boot, in the same week his first grandson, Prince George, was born. Peter, a model for James Bond on the gooseberry show's float in the village's recent Rose Queen festival, could be described as shaken if not stirred (but I guess secretly he knew he was in with a chance!) He said himself he was a little gobsmacked when the berry was weighed as he thought it might have tipped the scales at more than 30 pennyweights but in the event it was more than ample to win the show - even if a little slimmer than winners of previous years! Peter, a plumber lives in Holmes Chapel, but his family has strong farming links with Goostrey. He has grown gooseberries for something like 24 years but this was his first award of the premier prize. Angela Kirk, the show's official weigher, did a quick dig into the records to see how the Prince Charles has fared in the past. It appears never to have won a premier award - certainly in Goostrey, or elsewhere as far as she could see, but as she said it had given the village show a real Royal theme this year. Perhaps if one of the members produces a seedling and needs to give it a name Prince George would be the most appropriate! Peter's father-in-law,Alan Perrin, along with my friend Dave Burnham stalwart members of the local University of the Third Age (U3A), made a worthy suggestion that perhaps I should imprint an image of Prince Charles on the winning berry, but I'm afraid it is something beyond my technical skills. Anyone want a go please be my guest! I'm afraid gooseberry fans will have to wait this week for the Sandbach Chronicle and Knutsford Guardian for the full results and pictures from the show and other village events.(I don't like to steal the thunder from my hard-working colleagues on the weeklies). But if rumour has it right it appears local world champion Kelvin Archer is ahead of the field with his berry named Ann Archer of 32 pennyweights 01 grains at the Lower Withington Show. Although a modest size by Kelvin's standards, given this year's seriously weather-hit growing season - apart from July - it is possibly the leading contender for the Mid-Cheshire shows top prize.
|Peter's berry gets the Crown!|
Friday, 26 July 2013
|Last year's Gooseberry Show winner, Tom McCartney|
|Work on laying the tarmac in Blackden Lane|
I returned to Goostrey this week from RandR at my friends Maurice and Patsy in Surrey in time for our annual Gooseberry Show bash and what a surprise! No, nothing to do with the size of the berries - at long last Blackden Lane and Church Bank had men from the "Blackstuff" crawling over it like an army of ants laying a carpet of tarmac! I've been banging on for years about the state of the road, pitted, potted, pretty terrifying for traffic and pedestrians alike.Our humble cottage, some 400 years old, was feeling it too as passing traffic caused it to shake like something in the final stages of a horror movie. Now even the oldest banger sounds like a Rolls Royce travelling down the lane. And better still (possibly!) the earth has stopped moving for me every time a vehicle passes the door. I have sent my thanks to the council for a job well done in three days (should have been two but a machine broke down) and also met up with our immediate neighbour Paul Chaisty QC whose meaningful on-site discussion with the council I am sure did more than this old newshound to get the tarmac rolling! The roadworks no doubt caused a great deal of mumble-grumble from the regular rat runners forced to take a detour, and now I can only pray they will take note of the freshly-painted "slow" signs on the road. The work coincided with the final days in the run up to the battle of the gooseberries tomorrow (Saturday) at The Crown Inn where it has been traditionally hosted for some years. It was all looking a little fraught for the growers until July suddenly burst into summer to put a smile on their faces - sadly most are of an age when only a big berry among the bushes can raise a smile! - but it is different now. Even at BH where it was all doom and gloom several weeks ago modest success at the show is on the menu. But growers generally are playing it - as always - very close to their chests. I hear one or two of the favourites have some "nice" berries to put on the scales. But you can guess they will have a tension-torn night after today's pickings are boxed and sealed for the berry battle! Visitors are most welcome to the afternoon event, as seen on TV earlier this year, and to sample the Crown's splendid offering of ale, wines and eats.
*For a taste of the village event look up last year's show blog.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
Members of Goostrey Gooseberry Society were inspired by James Bond for their float at the village's Rose Day festival but now they are hanging their heads in shame - not only were they savaged by the scout's Viking ship entry but they lost the Crown's hat stand!
The stand with 007s trilby was borrowed from the inn as part of the set for Miss Moneypenny's office on their ambitious float.
But in the rush to the pub to drown their sorrows after losing the contest to the scouts for the best float the old fashioned wooden stand was forgotten.
Now after learning the stand was smashed on the road when it toppled off the trailer as it was returned to the owner, members are appealing for help in locating another - as a donation if possible!
A member of the society said: "We would love to hear from anyone who has a wooden hat stand so we can replace the one we borrowed from the Crown."
*Any offers please contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 1 July 2013
|Rose Queen Anna|
|Sue Mottershead at the opening|
*Click on the images to enlarge
|The winning Viking float|
|Nick Hassall tried a disguise as 007 ready for take- off|
|May look like 1905 but this is 2013 outside the Crown Inn!|
|Terry Price ? No, it is Jaws!|
|The church entry was a heavenly float|
Sunday, 30 June 2013
|The "cast" of the James Bond Float|
|Gooseberry Society's float|
*Watch out for more pictures from the day!
Thursday, 27 June 2013
It seems these days we are on an endless moving belt fighting to protect the environment or defending our villages from the mass assault of the developers. Now after ongoing fears in Goostrey over housing, still an unresolved issue, the latest battle ahead I guess will be shale gas. Or as still shaken parts of earthquake-hit Lancashire knows only too well - fracking. How can this be of concern to us, it might be asked. Well, if you Google it, as they say, you will rapidly discover that Goostrey is possibly part of a large chunk of east Cheshire where it appears trillions of cubic feet of the oil bearing rock might lurk beneath our feet! If you doubt what I say you will find a map on a new site devoted to the issue in our part of the county on Facebook I came across by chance. Of course, should our village be earmarked for a fracking well it could bring untold riches if the dash for gas went on unhindered. In return for a promised handsome pot of £100,000 plus one per cent of the revenue I have no doubt our Cheshire East council is already counting the gas dollars in the bank!
I will say nothing more on the subject until I have some hard facts. Instead I will switch to the village event of the year, the Rose Festival this week-end. There have been more wet years than fine years, I seem to think, but I could be wrong. Until the other day the forecast appeared to favour, if not wall to wall sunshine, at least a fine day for once. Now with rain in the offing for the next couple of days who knows what it will be like on the day - although my long-range forecast tells me it should not rain! I still have memories of last year when all was set fair until the procession set off from Booth Bed Lane and then the heavens opened just in time for the festivities. One of the features of the festival is the friendly (?) competition between the float-makers. Many of their themes are now an open secret at the bars of the Crown Inn and the Red Lion, but there are some entries still to spring a surprise on the day.Whatever happens, I am sure all the village will have a great day, rain or fine.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
DOCTORS PLEA FOR CASH INJECTION
Assurances by the government that despite the present age of austerity-led slash and burn, the NHS is ring-fenced are just weasel words it seems. I picked up a leaflet at Holmes Chapel Health Centre the other day that presents a far different picture in this corner of Cheshire. Since April local health services have been managed by a new Eastern Cheshire Clincial Commisioning Group. The Holmes Chapel practice is one of 23 in the group which has a budget of £221.5 million to buy all medications and medical care for the population of East Cheshire. Sounds a lot of lolly but already the practices fear that they will have overspent by £12.5 million by the end of the financial year.
The group's gripe - quite rightly - is that it is receiving the smallest amount of cash in the North West despite having one of the largest populations of elderly patients, many in nursing homes, requiring a high use of medical and social services. And the government has totally ignored this in allocating the cash in spite of promises that handing over control of the budget to local doctors and patients healthcare services would improve. In what doctors say is "grossly unfair" other groups in areas like Chester, Stockport, Manchester and Liverpool have some 50 per cent more to spend on patients. So far pleas from the medicos for a further injection of cash have fallen on deaf ears in Whitehall, and now they are turning to patients to front up their local MP - including the chief of slash and burn Chancellor George Osborne - to explain why the government is spending less on their healthcare when they pay the same income tax, national insurance and VAT as everyone else.
Doctors say to balance the budget at the end of the year is a tall order and very serious with the only option a major change in the way GP and hospital services operate. Of course, another option would be to give two fingers to the health mandarins and overspend, but the prognosis then is the arrival of accountants to axe services - no doubt on fat salaries - to balance the books!
+Fiona Bruce MP (Congleton) email: fiona.bruce.@parliament.uk George Osborne MP (Tatton) email: email@example.com David Rutley MP (Macclesfield) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 27 May 2013
THREE DAYS WITH SUN IS SUMMER!
|The steam engine rattles along Blackden Lane|
|What's that in the tree, Grandad ?|
|Chris "tiger Face" Jennings|
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
I hear there has been a tremendous response to Goostrey's new footpath highlighted in my last blog. One villager I encountered had just attempted the footpath - by bike! Not the best or ideal way as getting stuck in one of the new kissing gates encumbered by the machine could have had a less romantic end! However, I am assured by the gentleman concerned that he will be walking next time. He says it was wonderful to experience the delights of the new public right and can certainly recommend it. Sadly, I did not get to the official opening on the Bogbean but Roger Dyke, a member of Goostrey Footpath Group, has kindly sent me a report and several pictures of the event which I am only too pleased to publish as the rest of this blog.
MAYOR WALTON OPENS FOOTPATH TO OVER PEOVER
From Roger Dyke
Forty folk defied the rain to witness the Mayor of Congleton East, Councillor George Walton, present Goostrey Footpath Group member Bill Owen with a plaque commemorating the opening of the new public footpath linking Goostrey to Over Peover.
At the Bogbean in the shelter of a gazebo that had to be held down against the wind, Goostrey Guides provided light refreshments and then Bill Owen outlined to the Mayor the long history of the project, from the Parish Council and Residents Association original initiative in 1995 to the present day, and thanked the County Farms team and the County’s Public Rights of Way team for their wholehearted support of the project, without which nothing could have been achieved.
Particular thanks were also recorded to the Manchester Airport Community Fund, for its substantial financial contribution to the actual construction of the path, with its many bridges and kissing gates.
In return the Mayor congratulated the Goostrey Footpath Group on the tenacity with which the project had been pursued over the 17 years, and complimented Bill on the key role he had played personally in the extended negotiations.
The newsmen’s cameras clicked and flashed as the Mayor presented Bill with a Commemorative Plaque, and the new footpath was declared officially Open.
With the weather improving the party made its way down
Mill Lane and along the new footpath to Valley Farm Wood, where a token
ribbon was cut for the benefit of the press photographers.
Despite squelchy conditions underfoot the Mayor walked with the ceremonial party through Valley Farm Wood and on into Galey Wood where he joined in the installation of the Plaque on one of the many new bridges.
The first new public footpath in Cheshire East for four years was definitely Open for Use….
Colour leaflets describing the path (and outlining two walks) are available – free – from Mrs Kettle’s, Goostrey News and Goostrey Home & Leisure.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Friday, 26 April 2013
|Part of the straw insulation|
VILLAGE ROAD IS THE LAST STRAW!
The so-called silly season is the month famously an August phenomenon when the well of news runs dry and papers fill pages with daft stories from who knows where. But a blog is a different species when it focuses on more quirky aspects of rustic rural life ! Well, I like to think that is the way I play it. So when Paul, a local builder arrived on my field with the best part of the roof from old Mr Challinor's bungalow in Church Bank, in journalistic terms it was as they say like an early silly season gift to make bricks from straw.The great mass of beams and purlins are destined for the household biomass boiler, a French-made Perge which acts like a demanding mistress with its enormous appetite for wood during the winter months as it fires the central heating. But what really excited me - OK I know that sounds a tad sad! - were several sheets of what appeared to be compressed barley straw among the debris. Such straw is now used extensively to build houses by Eco-geeks but I would have thought it revolutionary as insulation when the late villager's house was built between the wars. Paul, who is enlarging the property to move in with his wife and eight-year-old daughter, says it was a first for him to find such material used to insulate the flooring. A builder friend Martin was also a little nonplussed at its use, but I guess Mr Challinor, an esteemed member of the Goostrey building family, who passed on in his nineties, was some seventy or more years ahead of his time! So there you have it a blog from straw. And a picture, too, all from nowt!
I have to thank the Sandbach Chronicle for contributing to my next item - or the ongoing story of potholed Blackden Lane outside my home and Church Bank. The latest issues confirms my darkest fears. Our district council Cheshire East is one of the worst in the country for the condition of its road surfaces.What's laughable it has even boasted about the number of potholes it has dealt with after complaints from residents. But despite my own protestations and plea to have Blackden Lane resurfaced, not just potholed filled, it still appears to fall on deaf ears. Our neighbour Paul Chaisty, an eminent advocate, tells me the council says the work will be done soon. But I think the council is ducking and diving as I am told it is not even listed in the schedule of major roadworks for the next twelve years! My informant at the parish council's annual meeting the other night says another local issue of a feared building boom in the villages seems unresolved. The district council is sticking to its guns in describing Goostrey as a Local Service Centre - an insulting description if I ever heard one - in the master plan for future housing developments. It insists the name makes no difference anyway. But perhaps a shed load of government lolly for every new home built in the council's fiefdom has something to do with it! More about this can be found on the excellent Love Goostrey website.
BLOG STOP PRESS: I see it is again the Farmer's Market at the Crown Inn this Saturday.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
ROAD RAGE AS VILLAGE STATION SPARKLES
|Goostrey Station and the iconic building in need of restoration|
|Cleaning the shelter Gavin Hollinshead, Barry Alston|
and Peter Godfrey
Peter Godfrey, who is a parish councillor as well as vice-chairman of the friends, says the volunteers are from all sections of village life. "All are keen to make sure the station reflects positively on Goostrey."
I wish Cheshire East Council's highways department was as pro-active as our friends at the station. The condition of the roads about the village continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate. My particular beef over several years, as the highways people well know, is Blackden Lane. I thought I was a bit of a lone voice crying in the wind but now my neighbours are complaining too about the state of the road surfaces.I have referred to it in the past as rock and roll alley but now that has changed to bomb alley since almost every vehicle that passes shakes my property and others like a blast from high explosives.The other night one particular heavy vehicle seemed to lift the roof in the same way as I still remember in the blitz of World War 11! Fortunately a fire engine earlier today on its way to rescue a fallen cow in a field off Red Lane was forced to creep past the house because of oncoming traffic. Otherwise there might have been another emergency!
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
COUNCIL'S CALL TO VIEW HOMES PLAN
In a call to arms reminiscent of Lord Kitchener's famous poster "Your Country Needs You" of World War One, Goostrey Parish Council finally is urging villagers to examine the proposed Cheshire East Local Plan. Last week households were leafleted by the council with the call "Your Village Needs YOU..." to comment on the plan at two information sessions this week in the village hall tomorrow (Wednesday) between 4pm and 8pm and on Saturday, between 10am and 3pm. Large scale maps of development sites to home possibly 1,000 newcomers will be on view.
Not only that councillors will be on hand to discuss the issues and the fact that Goostrey is one of 13 parishes designated as a Local Service Centre. I guess in planners speak that means it has a population and area large enough to absorb a massive increase in population in one big speculative estate and on smaller developments. But as I implied in my previous blog the term LSC must have been coined by a faceless Whitehall mandarin.
The arrival of the council's leaflet must have come as a bit of a surprise, if not shock, to many villagers, despite the good offices of a new website LoveGoostrey set up by a group of concerned residents to make people aware about the impact of the proposals. It appears that few of us ordinary folk were "in on" the plan which could so easily have slipped through without comment before the deadline of February 26.That's less than two weeks away !
Yet I learn that several potential developers are in advanced state of negotiation with Cheshire East Council and landowners.But I have to give credit where it's due - the parish council acted fast when it was realised that so few people in Goostrey were aware of the local plan due to a lack of publicity. It was certainly not a hot topic on the village's hourly bus - always a good source of local gossip - or around the bar at the Crown or Red Lion.
Like LoveGoostrey, I would not want to be accused of being a Nimby as I think there is scope for the village to grow in a far more modest way over the years but, as said previously, land by and large should be earmarked only for local needs,
But as the parish council says in its leaflet: The future of your village is in your hands !
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
A WAKE UP CALL FROM HIBERNATION
I'm afraid it has been a few months since I last "blogged" but I have now been shocked and stirred from my winter hibernation! By courtesy of a village group called LoveGoostrey I learn that we have yet another battle on our hands. Yes, you can guess, if not already informed, we are about to face another invasion from the developers who believe that Goostrey's green fields are ripe for what on the Spanish costas would be labelled urbanisation . Hand-in-hand in consultations with Cheshire East Council's Local Plan several builders are already rumoured to have quietly crept under the village radar to discuss at least three sites ( off Station Road. Main Road and Mount Pleasant) where 234 new homes can be plonked on green acres.What is more insulting is that in planning speak we have been robbed of our rural status and an ancient name that was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Goostrey is now classed as a small town, lumped together in Cheshire East in 13 areas known as Local Service Centres, including Holmes Chapel, Chelford and Alderley Edge, where 2,000 new homes will be built if developers and, no doubt, housing associations have their way. The insane council mandarin who thought up this one must have been breast-fed on George Orwell's 1984!
It may be of news to many that with less than a month to go before discussions on the proposals must end on February 26, the bid to expand Goostrey is currently part of Cheshire East Council's consultation with the community over its Local Plan. Now, I know I have been a little inactive over the past few months but until the LoveGoostrey newsletter arrived on my mat from its chairman Martin de Kretser I was largely ignorant of the issues unfolding about the Local Plan, or that my views were being sought. I must have missed out somewhere. Even local newspapers serving the area appear to have ignored the story although I am sure it must have been given a mention. But it seems sad I have to rely on a residents newsletter to keep informed. Fair enough, Cheshire East Council does have a website devoted to the issue but take your eye off the ball and how do you know it exists ? Or that you can look at the draft plan in Holmes Chapel library! Surely in this age of mass communications it was not beyond the wit of the council to send a note to all households seeking their comments.Get behind with the rates and I'd bet they would soon be knocking on the door!
According to LoveGoostrey (website http://LoveGoostrey.wordpress.com) there is now the opportunity (if belatedly) for residents to make their views known to influence where (or if) all these houses will go in the village. "The Local Plan affects everyone in the village but you can influence how Goostrey will look in the future," the LG say. The initial reaction to the proposals is that it currently appears to encourage a disproportionate development of Goostrey. Rightly it maintains that too much development would affect everyone in the village with too many additional houses, people and cars and all the infrastructure to support them. "If you want to go on living in a rural village you need to act now and add your comments to the Consultation to limit the development." Few would claim that Goostrey is one of those pretty postcard villages beloved of chocolate box makers but it does have its own charm and picturesque corners. The rash of development in the sixties and seventies managed to take place without the loss of its soul and was welcomed by and large by its inhabitants of then little more than 1,000. It seemed to me to have been a seamless merger of new and old, and certainly I have yet to meet anyone who has not felt a genuine welcome in the village. But there are limits to this kind of passive acceptance and overkill can lead only to resentment. Over the past 30 years Goostrey has grown at a slower, more natural rural pace, with any new housing on a small scale or in individual plots. Needs of local families should now be the issue for a Local Plan - not several hundred mansion-style homes (and no doubt a few so-called affordable houses) built by speculators and designed for wannabe country people at asking prices far beyond what any young couple from Goostrey can afford.
I would urge anyone interested in the future of the village to log on to the LoveGoostrey website to read its well argued assessment of the Local Plan. Cheshire East's website for comments is: http://cheshireeast-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/