Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Goostrey gooseberry champion Peter Goode won the trophy awarded for the first time by the Crown Inn as the winner of the heaviest premier berry from contests held at the  pub and The Dog, Over Peover. He was photographed by Bernard Tuck after he was presented with the award and a bottle of champagne during the Crown's beer festival. Picture: Bernard Tuck

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
Meanwhile, all eyes are on next week-end when Goostrey's reigning gooseberry champion at the Crown Inn, Peter Goode, and Les Stanier, winner of Peover's show at The Dog, will be going head to head at the Crown's beer festival to help raise funds for East Cheshire Hospice. What they will produce in berries  in this Champion of Champions contest is anyone's guess but perhaps Kelvin could be persuaded to take another peep beneath his bushes to pull of another big one for the occasion!
*Words and pictures copyright John Williams

Monday, 12 August 2013


The wrongly sited village sign
   I'm aware that Goostrey didn't prove a match for Lower Withington in the heaviest gooseberry stakes but I think it's a bit rich when they they also sneak onto our patch in a land grab! Kelvin Archer, a worthy world record holder,  was certainly more than a few whiskers ahead of this village with his big berry at the Withington show of a tad over 32 pennyweights.  However, it can now be revealed that not content with the big berry bashing, the parish council has weighed in by erecting a new village sign in Goostrey's territory. The fact the area nicked includes some of the giant  radio telescope - possibly Goostrey's biggest ratepayer - will not be lost on councillors! The discovery was made by blog correspondent Bernard Tuck, who lives at Jodrell Bank, part of Goostrey parish, on the main Chelford to Holmes Chapel Road (A535). If he didn't actually do it, figuratively I guess he must have scratched his head in astonishment when he spotted the newly installed sign, before consulting the Ordnance Survey map to confirm Lower Withington's boundary is more than a hundred yards up the road. He has raised the issue with the two councils - in a very lighthearted way of course,  this being the August silly season - for an explanation of the invasion into Goostrey  land-space. And with a bit of digital doctoring, he has added to an image he took  of the crime scene his own take on Withington's apparent error, the legend "Twinned with Goostrey."  Bernard says the sign has actually been planted almost outside the entrance to Terra Nova School on the Goostrey-Twemlow boundary on top of the rise near Bridge Lane - a nasty  collision black-spot about which he has been campaigning for some road safety measures after a string of  serious accidents and near misses. So, in that sense drawing attention to the boundary cock-up could help to  kick-start official action over road!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Prince Charles

Bernard Tuck

 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!

Abigail Burgess
Georgina Turner

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 scoop2001@aol.com

Monday, 1 July 2013


Rose Queen Anna


Sue Mottershead  at the opening
     I guess some gremlin got into the works so most of the pictures from the main blog from the Rose Day festivities got lost in space, goodness knows where. But all is well that ends well, I hope, and I can now play catch-up blog and include a selection - sadly my only picture of the new Rose Queen is a few seconds of video (another mistake pressing the wrong button!) but  Lynton Weeks kindly responded to my plea for help and emailed an image for publication!
*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

The Queen gathers with her court on the royal field

Sunday, 30 June 2013


The "cast" of the James Bond Float
   It was as everyone agreed one of the best ever rose days with a procession  of floats that wouldn't have looked out place in the Lord Mayor's show - made all the  more a great Goostrey spectacle  because  for once the heavens took pity and the rain stayed away! The  sunniest festival for several years was also one of the biggest turnouts for the crowning of the Rose queen, 13-year-old Anna DeSouza, as part of a village tradition founded in 1905! I don't recall seeing so many attractions and events on the fIeld - even a tug of war won with some mighty muscle by the Crown Inn -  and the high standard of the floats must have  given the judges a hard time!The Goostrey Gooseberry Society in which I must declare an interest had James Bond as its theme this year but in the event 007 was left shaken and stirred like the  hero's vodka and martini - a magnificent Vesu float built by the Viking Explorer Scout Unit won the silver trophy. The gooseberry men put up a good show though but they were no match for their nearest rivals dressed to kill with swords and fierce-some looking horns!
Gooseberry Society's float
Sue Mottershead, the Rose Day chairman, was delighted at the success of the festival and said it was due in no small part not only to the patrons for their financial support but to the scores of volunteers helping to make the event run smoothly, as well as the hard work behind the scenes of the organising committee.
*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


 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: public.enquiries@hm-treasury.gov.uk  David Rutley MP (Macclesfield)  email: david.rutley.mp@parliament.uk

Monday, 27 May 2013


The steam engine rattles along Blackden Lane
What's that in the tree, Grandad ?
What difference a day can make! Friday I was huddled against a whip-lashing wind, booted. hatted and scarved in temperatures reminiscent of winter, waiting for the village circular bus to arrive. Then Saturday and Sunday it was summer with  tee-shirts and shorts and burnt knees, as the temperature rose, if agonisingly slowly, towards the mid-sixties. And I know why I am really glad to live in Goostrey. Today it will be a different tale though – a typical rained-off Bank Holiday Monday is promised by the weathermen and I am dreaming of lands far away where sunshine is wall-to-wall, but just now the sun still shines!  In the spirit of grab-it-while you can I set off Saturday to take a few snaps of the village in this rare (this year) glow. Wondered why Blackden Lane was so quiet and it soon became clear. Birdsong in the great lime trees was replaced by a deep-throated tum, tum, tum as a steamer rattled in view, belching smoke, and followed in procession by a gaggle of vehicles in the narrow lane. A shriek of a greetings toot on the whistle and he was gone – labouring up Church Bank on a journey to who know where. Apart from a brief a pit stop and another steam-powered toot at the Crown where the monthly farmer’s market was in full swing! I’d planned to stroll through the village but the temptation on offer of a beer from Simon Kalton, joint owner of the inn, and the sight of Chris, the manager, with a painted tiger face was too good to resist!  Simon tells me the Dog at Over Peover  -formerly the Gay Dog in days when it meant something of a jolly good time – which he and his partner, Edward Barlow, took over and refurbished is, like the Crown, doing great things in the village. So much so he hopes to get together with the gooseberry shows held at the pubs to put on some kind of bash after this season’s battle of the berries. I’d spotted a picture in Margaret Kettle’s window showing the bongs carpeted in  a mass of bluebells, but it must have been taken either last year or several weeks ago. As you will note from my picture they were a bit of a limp disappointment when I ventured into the ancient woodland. But then again perhaps I shouldn’t have loitered over a beer on such a wonderful day!
Chris "tiger Face" Jennings 
+Click the pictures to enlarge 

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.


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


A map of Goostrey paths with the new link

    I always believed if I stepped from my driveway  and trekked northwards I would reach John o' Groats, or turning west arrive at Land's End, simply by using the ancient footpaths and green roads of Britain. But alas I've just discovered that I have been under a serious delusion all these years. Not that I ever intend to carry out such a feat of endurance in my wildest of nightmares. I've been a bit of a rambler though in my time - encouraged I must say by my late wife, Joan, whose father was one of the leaders in the great Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout and a founder member of the Ramblers Association. My kind of walking has been of the more genteel  sort. Some people might remember that in Town and Country Post I featured a local ramble every month for many years.  According to Roger Dyke, a leading light in the very worthy Goostrey Footpaths Group, I would soon have got into difficulties had I wished to use a footpath to the north as beyond the village boundary I would rapidly become 

Signposts and bridges help the walker

  stuck in the mire! South, yes it  possible I  could travel  via any number of public rights of way. But north was a no-go area across some of the area's most delightful countryside because of a one and a half mile breach between Goostrey and the Peover Superior ( for those readers outside Cheshire it is Peever not Peeover) foothpath network. I recall when I lived in Mill Lane I often thought what I should do when I reached the end of the lane. Risk the wrath of some angry landowner or a yapping dog by nipping across his fields in an act of sheer folly.Often as a youngster with a like-minded gang of semi-rural urchins such notices to keep out  were ignored in pursuit of scrumping apples from the farmer's orchard! Now through the efforts of the footpaths group, a plan mooted by Goostrey Parish Council and the residents' association  in 1995 to establish a  link between the parishes has been completed. Woodland and hidden countryside denied of access for generations of  walkers has been dedicated as a public right of way by Cheshire East Council. With work and funding by the footpaths group, as well as financial help from the council and  Manchester Airport Community Trust Fund, the route has been created, waymarked,signposted and bridged. There is even the odd kissing gate for those romantically inclined! The link provides a walk of between three and six miles depending on which route is chosen to return to Goostrey. The milestone is to be marked by the official opening this Saturday (May 11) of the village's first new public footpath since possibly the stone age! (journalistic license) Council mayor George Walton is performing the ceremony at the Bogbean, near the start of the route at Mill Lane, followed by snipping a ribbon at the new bridge in Galey Wood.

Goostrey Footpath Group prepare to sign the path
+An illustrated leaflet  of the new path in colour is available free at Margaret Kettle's shop and village post office and from Nigel at Goostrey News. Still available from local shops is the foothpath group's local walking bible "More Goostrey Walks and Strolls" - a bargain at £3.95

Friday, 26 April 2013

 Part of the straw insulation


  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


Goostrey Station and the iconic building in need of restoration
Cleaning the shelter Gavin Hollinshead, Barry Alston
and Peter Godfrey
I 'm pleased to find the Friends of Goostrey Station are keeping me up to speed about their efforts to transform this vital asset with a major make over. Pleased too they had the good sense to refer to it as a "railway" station - not  that terrible American term of "train" station. But I guess many of the volunteers organised into monthly working parties will be of an age when the person in charge of a train was a guard, not a conductor as most operators (and media) now appear to insist on calling the individual. Perhaps they think it sounds posh or more upmarket to call the staff conductors. But personally I think it is daft. That should be reserved for an orchestra! Ok I hear what you  say - what the hell does it matter anyway. But I bet the job description doesn't come with extra lolly! Now I have had my little rant I'd like to say what a magnificent job the 50 or so friends are doing at the railway station. Like magic floral tubs have popped up on the platform and the banking on the roadside is looking really splendid with new plantings.  Goostrey is one of 450 stations managed by Northern Rail and I gather the main building - recently identified by the London Midland Railway Society as one of only a handful to remain of a type built between 1860 and 1920 - is in a sad state of repair. However, I learn from Mike Jarvis, the treasurer of FOGS, that sponsors are being sought so restoration can start. More volunteers are welcome to join the working parties meeting on the second Sunday of the month between 10am and 1pm.
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!

Saturday, 23 February 2013


   If I hadn't been there, I don't think I would have believed it - a couple buying cheese to pack in their baggage for France ! Our neighbour across the channel has probably more varieties of cheese than anywhere in the world. But, let's face it, a goodly hunk of Cheshire takes a lot of beating. And so this Saturday I found myself outside Goostrey's Crown Inn buying cheese from the same stall as the couple at the launch of the monthly farmers' market. They lived in France they told me but there was nothing like a bit of local farmhouse to remind them of home !  The market was flagged up for several weeks and in spite the bitterly cold day with more than a passing hint of snow flurries there was a  fair turnout of stallholders doing a brisk trade. So much so that several ran out of produce long before the end.  The lady selling cheese was doing a good deed standing in for the stallholder after her own craft-baked bread stall sold out. And a delighted Pig & Co from Blackden didn't even have the proverbial pig's whistle left to offer latecomers !
  Penny Clark from Wilmslow, who makes a range of special preserves with an old  school pal Sarah Langley, said she was delighted with  support from the village and would certainly be returning in March. "I didn't expect so many would turn up because it is so cold and this was the first market but the support of people has been tremendous," she told me. Julia Ryding from Billinge, Lancashire, a regular at seven other markets with her hand-made cakes, agreed it had been a wonderful atmosphere and would be back with her stall, too. "It took me only half an hour to get here so it really is good."   Huw Rowlands offering beef from his herd of red poll cattle at Mickle Trafford was also a very happy farmer but concerned if he would have anything to sell the next day at Whitchurch  such was the demand for his home-raised meat.
 All in all it was a great  morning out for the community - some I know had been in the pub the night before but still managed to rise early - and a tribute to the new owners of the Crown, optimistic the monthly event on the car park will become a regular feature of village life.
    Goostrey's next farmers' market is on March 30.
Meanwhile, the deadline for public comment on Cheshire East Council's proposed Local Plan looms on February 26 but the parish council has been working hard to rally support in its bid to have Goostrey's designation  changed from a Local Service Centre to a Sustainable Village. This would minimise the amount of future development for the life of the plan up to 2030.Every household should have received a model letter  with space for individual comment  to send off before the deadline. The alternative is a Goostrey possibly swollen by new homes for more than 1,000 newcomers ! The LoveGoostrey website has all the details.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


 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


  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/