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


  1. Nice piece John. Looking forward to the results. Great memories of the fun we had. We all loved the fabulous "gooseberry tea", the sliced, vinegar sweetened onions were my favourite. Bread and butter with real salad , not a mix up of lots of bits, but individual prices of crisp lettuce and radishes. The hot tea was very "sobering", after a marathon of weighing the berries. I think that the dessert was tinned peaches and evaporated milk. I wonder about the present day feast?