Wednesday, 14 October 2015


The Gladman Plan
Gladman aboard Vulcan's last flight over Goostrey?
Anyone catching up with the Archers in recent times will find Ambridge’s anger over an ill-conceived by-pass every bit as familiar as Goostrey’s real-life story of country folk.In its battle to repel the developers, fictitious Ambridge has the odious Justin Elliot to fight, bolstered by loads-of-loot as he waits for the tarmac to role out in order to launch schemes to transform green acres into a kind of agri-industrial nightmare. Now we in Goostrey have Gladman developments to face in the jousting field among the many predators casting cash-filled eyes over its pastoral heritage with their plans for more speculative building of little or no benefit to the community. Since the 1960s the village has expanded from what was little more than a hamlet to the size of today. This was achieved as part of a planned expansion over several decades and was, by and large, welcomed by the host community. The village as it stands now has reached in the view of the majority a size in population that is just about sustainable. An additional estate sought by Gladman  of 119 homes to feed a demand that does not exist locally would destroy the existing rural character of the village. And inevitably it would encourage more developers to add to a creeping urbanisation of the worst kind. Many villagers are probably unaware that in planners speak, Goostrey is known as the "dumb-bell" village with east and west divided by the green space between which Gladman is seeking to destroy. If allowed this development would increase the population by some 400 adults and children, add at least a further 200 or more cars on local roads, swamping the primary school and, perhaps more seriously, provide Holmes Chapel Health Centre with an impossible task of coping with another large surge in patients. Local doctors are already under siege with far more patients than they can handle or have a  budget to provide services, including increasing numbers of the elderly, as the result of speculative developments in Holmes Chapel. It is now so cash-strapped that the doctors themselves are digging into their own pockets to maintain services.  It can be argued there is a need for some so-called affordable housing as proposed in the development but evidence shows where such homes have been built locally incomers have been the beneficiaries, not young people from the village who would struggle to buy or rent these properties. The latest figures show that to buy a property for a modest £150,000 an annual income of £50,000 is necessary to support the mortgage. I can’t think of many first-time buyers even in what is regarded as well-heeled Goostrey have such financial resources available. I would suggest there are ample plots of infill land in the village where limited affordable housing could be built if there was a real need without the wholesale destruction of more green acres in what is arguably one of the most attractive areas of open country within the parish. But first of all there needs to be more lateral thinking among planning authorities to solve the so-called housing crisis. How daft is the situation where councils, increasingly whipped up by the hysterical frenzy for house building from politicians of all shades, simply ride roughshod over opposition and allow large-scale developments yet deny an individual approval to convert a garage or build a modest extension to house a son or daughter or elderly relative. There is also the well-founded argument that communities, Goostrey among them, which have more than done their bit in welcoming development in the past, should now be allowed to grow naturally as in previous centuries. A survey should be undertaken of all villagers to identify possible future family housing needs before the floodgates open. I note the multi-million pound Gladman business on its website boasts of success in crushing local opposition as it ranges far and wide nationwide like some reincarnation of Attila the Hun in persuading landowners to sell off areas of land.It has generated so much anger there is a national petition online (see the Love Goostrey website) calling on the Government to step in and impose a suspension order on its developments.  I am encouraged that  on this occasion in Goostrey our planners have not chickened out in the face of yet another public inquiry and are preparing to put  Gladman to flight! We have come a long way since Mrs Hough, a welcoming basket of little goodies in hand, would greet newcomers of the 1960s to the village. The  community response today to such a large-scale invasion will be very muted, I am sure.  October 15  was the last day for objections to the Gladman proposals.
How it was before the developers
+Click on images to enlarge

Tuesday, 4 August 2015



Marie with her top gooseberry
 A  schoolgirl has gone to the top of the class and wiped the whiskers off the faces of champions after growing this year's heaviest  recorded gooseberry.  But sadly 12-year-old Marie Wilshaw is too young to win the premier prize for her monster entry in the annual battle among local enthusiasts.  Marie from Mossley, Congleton, tipped the scales with a whopping golf-ball sized Belmarsh berry weighing 34 pennyweights 20 grains (nearly two ounces) She beat her dad, Dave, and world record holder, Kelvin Archer, competing in the same village gooseberry show at Marton as well as exhibitors in seven other events in the area.   If  age had not ruled her out she would have been presented with a large silver trophy by Mid-Cheshire Gooseberry Shows Association as the top grower at a dinner in her honour later this year. Instead, the  official title for the heaviest berry was claimed by Jim Hart, the 74-year-old secretary of the Allostock show. His Edith Cavell berry of 33.06 was the best weight any of the old-timers could  raise this year. Marie has to reach 15  to qualify to compete against veteran growers - some producing gooseberries for more than 50 years - but she
Showing off her biggest berry
was determined to join the ranks of the heavyweights before then.
   She started growing gooseberries on an allotment near  home when she was only nine with 12 bushes given to her by her dad.  Marie, a pupil at Eaton Bank Academy, Congleton, said: "My aim  has been to beat my dad and I feel absolutely great now I have done it." Her mother Michelle said: "She is a very determined young lady and has always said her ambition was to beat her dad as well as Kelvin. It is just a pity she is still too young to join the seniors. She doesn't have any particular recipe for growing but just does what her dad tells her." Kelvin, whose record berry of  41 pennyweights 11 grains in the Guinness Book of Records has stood since 2013, said: "It was a remarkable effort for such a young girl in a year when most experienced growers have been struggling a bit."

Jim, who lives in Knutsford, won Allostock last year with a more humble Edith Cavell of 26.18 but went on to claim as this year almost all the show's collection of silver trophies with his other entries.
"I am tickled pink to be top of the association  after all this time.  I have been growing gooseberries since I was ten or twelve and feel I was born under a gooseberry bush!" he said.
 * Over 200 gooseberry shows were held in the 19th century but are now confined to a small area of mid-Cheshire and Egton Bridge in Yorkshire.
++COPYRIGHT PICTURES: (c) John Williams, Goostrey. Click pictures to enlarge

Friday, 17 July 2015


Kelvin Archer with his world record berry
The centuries-old battle of the gooseberries is poised for its summer clash among rival  growers  in village pubs and community halls - bidding to produce the biggest berry of the season. It is a quintessential  mid-Cheshire  gardeners tradition to pluck from  bushes
Weighing the berries at last year's Goostrey show
fruit up to several ounces -
   weighed in pennyweights - to vie for the premier berry in the show.But this season is proving a little anxious for growers preparing for the first of the shows. Veteran grower Terry Price, now in his fifty-fourth year of raising berries in the Goostrey area, doubts if there will be any record weights produced in time for the launch  of the season but the chance of bigger berries is likely  in August if the good weather holds.Terry, a Twemlow parish councillor elected president of Goostrey at its pre-show meeting at the Crown Inn this month, said: "I guess there will be some very  nice berries around but the weights are likely to be down as the season at this time is three weeks behind other years."   In  the 19th century annual shows appeared all over Cheshire and  in the industrial heartlands of Lancashire and Cheshire but it is left to Egton Bridge over the Pennine hills  since 1800 to uphold the honour of their county, once producing the world's heaviest berry. Now they are confined in this area to eight shows on several Saturdays from the end of July at  Goostrey, Holmes Chapel, Allostock, the Crown of Peover, Over Peover, Lower Withington, Marton and Swettenham Club. Popularity of local gooseberry contests has not been lost on organisers of the RHS Show at Tatton Park where an exhibit has been a feature for a number of years,and filming of the Goostrey show by BBC TV gave world-wide coverage in the Country File programme.  The Blackden Trust based at the home of author Alan Garner and his wife, Griselda,near Jodrell Bank, maintains the official gooseberry archive of the many varieties of bushes.
 Twice world champion Kelvin Archer, a gardener at Rode Hall, who raises his mighty fruit  alongside vegetables and flowers, is the present holder of the title for the heaviest grown, earning his place in the Guinness Books of Records.His Millenium-named gooseberry hit the record on the scales in 2013 with a weight of 41 pennyweights 11 grains. To outsiders the shows are a quaint  survival from the past, but for rival growers spending hours tending bushes  this is serious business with prize-money and silver cups as the spoils. Visitors are welcome at all shows but at Goostrey on Saturday (July 25)  members will be on hand to explain some of the mystic and history of growing  monster berries. The event at the Crown starts at 1pm  when show boxes protected with wax seals are opened to do battle.



Saturday, 14 February 2015


Tom with his winning berry
Tom McCartney, who has died, was  every bit a man of Goostrey and its famous gooseberries. He played a leading role in village life  for most of his 91 years.  Yet, this genial figure was not local born but  Cumbrian by birth. He  came to Cheshire by happy choice as best man at the wedding of his pal, Joe Sharpe, shortly after the end of World War 11. He stayed on at Joe’s suggestion to find work on the land, both in farming and as a landscape gardener, and met his wife, Hilda, 84, while working at the fruit farm in Twemlow. His passion for almost 66 years was growing gooseberries, most of the time in the garden of his home in Bank View. I am told his first show was at Goostrey in 1948, the year of the first post-war olympics, when he presented berries grown by the late Frank Carter's mother!   Although he had previously won the trophy for the premier berry at the Swettenham show, it was not until 2012 that he gained as the society's long-time president and  elder statesman the top place at Goostrey in a year with some  of the lowest berry weights on record. His Montrose berry  of 22 pennyweights 16 grains was a tiddler compared to  his golf-ball sized examples of other years. Even world champion Kelvin Archer could only pull off the top spot at Lower Withington with a berry weighing 27 pennyweights and four grains. Still, Tom was delighted with his success, taking away five trophies from the show. And as he said in that year of the Olympic games perhaps size didn’t matter after all – winning the show at the Crown after 64 years competing felt like becoming an Olympian! However, he went on to crown his success at the Swettenham Club show with a berry weighing 29 pennyweights and one grain to win  the Mid-Cheshire association's cup.No mean feat for a man of his years! Since his death, many tributes have been paid to Tom, one of them from Julie Ann Lockett, the first lady secretary
In the media spotlight
of the Goostrey show. She moved from the village in 1982 with her husband, Michael, and their family to settle, first in Texas and now in Grand Island, New York state.
Once a year after their departure, Tom kept in touch by post. "I always looked forward to receiving a little parcel every Christmas containing a Christmas card depicting a picture of Goostrey, along with a gossipy letter and the Gooseberry register," she emails. "He welcomed me into the club along with Grandad (Walter) Carter in the seventies when others were very suspicious of  'this woman secretary'.
Tom leaves his wife, Hilda, and their son, Michael, who lives in London.
His funeral is on Thursday, February 19, at Vale Royal Crematorium, Davenham, at 2.30pm and afterwards at the Red Lion, Goostrey.
+Double click on the pictures to enlarge.