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.



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