Monday, 30 July 2012


Winner Tom snapped by the local  paper

Tom's a Gooseberry "Olympian" after 64
Years (click images to enlarge)

Tom MacCartney, 88, had much to smile about when he won Goostrey Gooseberry Show for the first time in 64 years of raising berries

The show is filmed by the BBC for a new food series in October
David Heath, last year's winner, is in the picture

 Late Geoff Basford who weighed the Goostrey berries for many years


Sunday, 29 July 2012


 Word from the bushes was there wouldn't be a world champion at the Goostrey Gooseberry Show after the worst growing season in memory. But dogged dedication paid off for veteran Tom McCartney at Saturday's event at The Crown  - his berry won the village show for the first time since he began competing 64 years ago!
 The premier Montrose berry of 22 pennyweights 16 grains was a tiddler compared to golf ball-sized fruits of other years. Even previous champions like David Heath, last year's winner, and Doug Carter, struggled for top places with berries a little over 21 pennyweights separated by a few whiskers.
 Kelvin Archer, a world champion, held the top spot with a berry of  only 27 pennyweights 4 grains at the Red Lion. Lower Withington - a long way from his biggest ever in excess of 34 pennyweights.
 All together Tom, 88, collected five trophies for his entries, including the award for the heaviest twins in the show. But he was less than cock-a-hoop in victory on the same day as the start of the London olympics. 
 "I am almost ashamed at the size of it. But this year I never expected to have a berry even that weight. The year I won the Swettenham show it was over 30 pennyweights."
 Tom began raising gooseberries in 1948 when the olympic games were last in Britain and even he admitted that perhaps size didn't matter this year after all. "It is just like winning something in the olympics."
 The outcome of the show will be there for the world to see in October. The BBC filmed the event for a new celebrity chef series fronted by James Atherton
David Heath, who has the consolation of  the trophy for presenting the best showplate of berries, said: "I forecast it wouldn't be a good year for weights but I still think it was a very good show. Tom did very well indeed."

Wednesday, 25 July 2012



The battle is on at the Crown
David Heath wins at a previous show
   You can talk about the London Olympics, if you like, but this Saturday if you go down to The Crown Inn, Goostrey's own Olympiad will be in full-swing as the titan growers of the Gooseberry clash in combat. The annual Gooseberry Show is a serious affair for the growers, steeped in tradition,  secret potions and determination, a lot of mythology and I suppose a fair amount of real competition to rival the most dedicated athletes in gathering the biggest fruit of the season. I guess because of its name Goostrey is linked with Gooseberries more than any other community.  Over the years it has produced some of the greatest growers in the scattering of villages in mid Cheshire where the shows begin at the week-end, if not a world champion. Sad to say this year is  unlikely to provide a vintage crop, I gather. Word has it on the vine - should say gooseberry bush - that berries presented on the scales will be tiny by comparison with the golf ball proportions of previous events, due to incessant rain, lack of sunshine earlier in the season and an infestation of mildew. "They are busting all over," one aggrieved grower told me as the late onset of soaring temperatures did its worst. But these gooseberry growers are a canny lot and at times can be a little economical with the truth!  David Heath, the reigning Goostrey champion with his Newton Wonder berry of 31pennyweights 13 grains. is more forthcoming than most veteran growers. He has been raising gooseberries for over 40 years and  the many times winner says the season is grim. Now only partially sighted he relies on his wife, Kath, to help and suggests most growers will be lucky to have a berry much more than 30 pennyweights. But he admits that visitors to his garden suggested that his berries  are very good. "I don't really know because I can't see very well," he says. He urges recent growers not to be put off by stories of a poor crop. "I've always said it is not what you have in your box but what other people have got that counts (on the day)." Rumour has it that a TV unit from the  BBC will be at the show as a follow up  to the visit last year for an item in a programme already  screened  about the more quirky of  Britain's village pursuits.

*Click on images to enlarge
The showcase displays the berries
Late Geoff Basford weighs the berries

A world champion, the late Albert Dingle

Friday, 20 July 2012



    You might think I'm  a little daft (oreccentric) when I decided I must have a haircut and took several buses and trains to have a trim. But more in the manner of an experiment, I took off overland  by public transport from Goostrey to my  regular barber's at Lostock Gralam. Now, yes, I  know, I hear what you say that 15 minutes or so in the car and you are there. That supposes a vehicle is at hand but on this occasion there was nothing in the stable I could take, My electric bike was a tad tempting but one look at the weather decided otherwise. It had to be public transport using my free bus pass and rail card .The first part of the trip was child's play. The local bus from the Red Lion to Goostrey station, then within minutes the stopping train to Chelford. But that is where a simple journey becomes a little fraught. I saw the slipstream of the bus to Knutsford just settling as a stepped from the train for the two minute walk to the village.  The next bus was almost an hour later I found but no worries. What the matter there was a fine  home-made pork pie from Boon's butchers shop as compensation for the wait - although it did occur to me not many years ago the Dixon Arms, now replaced by what appears to be granny stackers, would have provided a more hospitable waiting room than the solitary bus stop !
The village centre of Chelford is  one of the most hostile places to stand for a bus as the
 main road from Knutsford to Macclesfield is alive with with the thunder of heavy lorries and a constant flow of other vehicles mostly travelling like bats out of hell. There is a speed limit of sorts that seems to be universally ignored and why the local community hasn't risen in protest at this intrusion I don't know. If ever there was a case for a by-pass Chelford should have a good chance.
It was with relief, with pie consumed and battered by traffic noise, I finally stepped on board the bus for the next stage of the journey. This turned out to be far more pleasant experience. A few minutes on arrival in Knutsford I was able to catch  a connection to Northwich, stopping at Lostock Gralam. Only trouble was it dropped me something like half a mile from my haircut. The driver, I will call Mr Grumpy (in fact he was a miserable  bugger) said if I wanted to catch him on the return he was back in 20 minutes. Sure, I was the only client but even when finished and dusted down within 10 minutes an Olympian sprinter would have missed the bus. This is where a Plan B is essential when travelling via  public transport. Lostock Gralam is served by the Manchester to Chester rail line, stopping at Knutsford, so the return home was easy. Apart from the near-hour waiting for the train's arrival, another forty-five miniutes for the bus to Chelford and a little over half an hour for the train to Goostrey! The total journey time, including hanging around, was five and a half hours but the haircut was worth it !  

Monday, 16 July 2012

What a difference 12 months can make. A year ago, I said Goostrey's newly-installed vicar, the Rev Ian Godfrey, and his wife, Audrey, defied the rain to host St Luke's garden party on the vicarage lawn, Yes, if you remember, last year was  noted for its rain sodden events, too.  But in a summer fraught for organisers of outside functions, this year has been an even more prayer-like state of  anxiety.  Like some Biblical miracle, however, the rains parted for St Luke's on Sunday ( despite  the occasion also being St Swithin's day and its dire warning of 40 days of rain )  for tea and cake at the vicarage. If it wasn't exactly a barmy summer's day it did at least keep fine.  Much  to the delight of the host and hostess and a brigade of ladies from the church  eager to please with their helpings of home-made treats and goodies. The manicured lawns - a credit to Audrey's work on her new sit-on garden tractor - provided the setting for what was for all a relaxing afternoon of chit-chat over the clink of teacups !

Sunday, 1 July 2012


                                      The Merry Maypole Dancers from Goostrey school

*Click on the pictures to enlarge
Captain Mainwaring we presume
Dad's Army on parade
Well, if someone had said I told you so, it would rain on the Rose Festival, I guess I'd  admit it probably would. It didn't rain. It just downed buckets between heartening shafts of sunlight. But those taking part in this festival of fun in Goostrey are a stoic lot. It takes more than rain to washout a day a year in the making by a dedicated team. If anything the long parade of decorated floats from the west to the east end of the village fared the worst. Just as it was assembled to be off, the heavens opened whipped up by a sea-like breeze to drown the proceedings. But, if wet and soaked from the elements, the parade made it to the school field encouraged on its way by a  throng of loyal spectators.                        
The Scouts smoked us out !
It had to be Budgie
 I joined the Gooseberry Society float again this year with the theme of Dad's Army. It was much admired with its motley uniformed crew of baby boomers (I guess I was the only one able to claim I actually saw Dad's Army in action !)  and the tunes and patriotic melodies of the period blasting the route. Alas, despite all our hopes, it was not the fourth time lucky to win the trophy for the best senior turnout. This went to Goostrey WI, still on a roll from winning silver at the Cheshire Show, with a Jubilee year theme of The Guards and Queen Margaret Kettle complete with cut-out corgi. It was a brilliant well-earned coup for the ladies ! But not without a  little controversy right from an episode of the Archers. Only hours after the event  Facebook was alive with - I can only think tongue in cheek -  cries of foul play from the dispirited Dad's Army. Unable to pick their gooseberries for a barrage, they threw a few verbal raspberries at the ladies success in the contest, albeit judged, so it was claimed, by a WI member ! I'm sure they will reply with a few well aimed pots of jam and a round of Jerusalem !
Queen Margaret greets her subjects
The rest of the day appeared to go well despite several showers. Notable was the village school's maypole dancers.
*Sad to say I missed a picture
of the Rose Queen - if anyone
would care to email a copy.