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

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