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

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