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A look behind the scenes of producing a winning gooseberry.
Goostrey’s Martin de Kretser tells of his journey from receiving the wooden spoon to winning this year’s cup for the heaviest gooseberry.
“After moving into the village in 1993 after Sue and I were married, we started growing fruit and vegetables in the garden. We learnt that our cottage was part of a fruit farm, now The Orchards Dairy farm, and had been constructed for the fruit farm employees. We inherited a number of fruit bushes and trees, but no gooseberry trees.
For many years we had heard about the Gooseberry Society and Sue suggested I should join as I was very interested in growing fruit and vegetables and it was a way to become involved in the village; we had often seen the Gooseberry Societies float at Rose Day and they seemed a fun crowd. It wasn’t until we managed to get an Allotment in 2012 that I met Peter Goode , a seasoned Gooseberry grower of over 25 years, that I decided to have a go.
Peter kindly introduced me to the Society and I watched my first Gooseberry show in 2013 when Peter won Premier Berry for his first time with a ‘Prince Charles’ of 29 dwt 07 gr. I was hooked! Peter supplied me with some trees and I started growing and entered the 2014 show.
In accordance with the rules of the Society I grew them in our garden (Peter had obtained special dispensation to grow on the allotment as he had been a previous Goostrey resident and had grown for many years but had run out of space at home). I came last with a Bank View of 8.21 and was awarded the ‘wooden spoon’ which is engraved with the names of everyone who came last in each competition and is hanging up in the bar in the Crown pub, but I watched Peter win again with a Prince Charles again of 33 dwt 00 gr.
Not deterred, I carried on and Peter Goode, Terry Price and Chris Jones all gave some useful advice on how to improve. In the 2015 show I did much better and came 6th in the Premier Berry with a new tree, Newton Wonder, that Peter had given me and achieved a berry of 25 dwt 08 gr and won ‘Most improved grower’. Unfortunately before the next show in 2016 my trees had a bad attack of the dreaded ‘mildew’ which stunts berry growth, partly due to me adding to much rich chicken manure fertiliser which caused a lot of sappy growth and encouraged an aphid infestation which allowed the ‘mildew’ to take hold. The chemicals I had been using the previous year had been withdrawn and were no longer available.
I struggled on and managed to get a 10th place in the 2016 show with a Bank View of 16 dwt and 21 gr. Following this I learnt that part of the problem was also having trees too close together which restricted airflow and encouraged ‘mildew’.
For the preparation for the 2017 show I decided to research Gooseberry growing intensively and set up a website to keep track of my research and also made it available as a resources for new growers (https://goosegogs.wordpress.com/). I was determined to do better. I created some extra beds and spaced out the trees. I gave the trees a winter wash to remove any over wintering pests and I used farmyard manure rather than the rich chicken manure in the spring and waited for the blossom to form. As soon as the blossom came I experimented with hand cross pollination and to protect the blossom I kept a close eye on the weather forecast and each evening if frost was forecast covered up the trees and set tea lights in plant pots to act as gentle heaters to protect the blossom from frost damage.
The fruit set well and I also managed to get the aphids under control early on. Everything was looking good and I found a new preventive treatment for the ‘dreaded’ mildew and managed to avoid ‘mildew’ completely. We had a very dry Spring, but as I had installed soakaway hoses this didn’t cause too many problems. The problems started when the weather started to have hot and cold spells with heavy downpours which caused berries to drop and split prematurely. This caused problems for many growers, including myself. I battled on and kept vigilantly covering the berries when rain was forecast and kept watering to maintain an even moisture content of the soil as best as I could, and kept feeding the trees right up to the day of picking.
All of the seasoned growers struggled, including Peter who unfortunately lost his berries with the difficulty compensating for the weather conditions on the Allotment. As Peter had no berries, Chris Jones and Gareth Buckley kindly agreed to pick with me and on the day of the gathering I knew I had some berries, but thought they were only in the order of 16 dwt, if one was over 20 dwt I would have been more than satisfied. I was aiming to remain in the top ten of growers and hoped to break into the top five.
We had picked all my berries, so we thought, apart from one. Fortunately Gareth found another berry and it was a reasonable size and seemed to be in the order of 24 dwt. It had been the one I had been keeping my eye on. We packed it in my box with the rest of the berries and sealed it up for the night. Berries can burst in the box so I didn’t hope for too much and again would be more than happy to get in the top 5. I started to get an inkling I may do a bit better in the get together in the pub the night before the show, so I thought a second or third maybe a possibility.
You could have bowled me over with a feather when I won ‘Premier berry’ with a Blackden Gem of 23dwt 19gr !! I’m not sure whether someone coming last in their first show has ever managed to get a Premier Berry in their fourth show in Goostrey and I am not sure of the last time a Blacken Gem won in Goostrey, or whether this is the lowest weight of a Premier Berry to win a Goostrey show. Sounds like I have some more research to do!
In terms of plans for next year, I will replace the non productive trees and obtain some new ones and see if I can improve my technique further. The goal for next year? To try and get a berry over 30 dwt’s … The pressure is on !!”
The wait is over.
The winning (heaviest) gooseberry at the 2017 Goostrey Show is a Blackden Gem, weighing in at 23 pennyweights 19 grains, grown and nurtured by Martin de Kretser.
Martin was absolutely delighted when his goosegog was found to be the winner at The Crown Inn yesterday, especially after all the growers had to deal with particularly trying weather.
(photos from The Crown)
Cheshire East Council has this week (at last) formally adopted its Local Plan.
Importantly, the Plan provides a five-year supply of housing land to protect against inappropriate or unsustainable housing proposals. Goostrey’s position will be further strengthened if its Neighbourhood Plan is approved by a majority vote by residents on August 17th.
Councillor Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council said: “It has been a long and sometimes difficult journey but we understood the importance of getting this blueprint right – and the adoption of our Local Plan is great news for the people of Cheshire East. The Local Plan is the council’s most important tool for shaping development in Cheshire East to 2030 – so today is a landmark for this authority, local businesses and our residents.”
Cheshire East’s Local Plan includes provision for a housing requirement of at least 36,000 new homes and 380 hectares of development land, with 60-plus strategic sites within the Local Plan, including larger-scale proposals such as the North Cheshire Garden Village at Handforth.
From Blogs from the Bongs:
A Dunkirk spirit will be needed by growers poised this week for the annual battle of the bushes as gooseberries come under attack from a combined force of weather, disease and pests.
|Goostrey show in action|
|Kelvin Archer with world beating berry|
Only several weeks ago all looked well as the fruit ripened and grew gently under their protective netting for the Mid Cheshire shows beginning on Saturday. But fickle weather, blowing hot and cold and late season torrents of rain, is doing its best to dampen the prospect of weighing in with a world-beating berry. Now, it will be a case of standing firm and rescuing the best from the trees before they burst.
Terry Price, Goostrey Gooseberry Society’s current champion and show President, says reports suggest that all growers in the area are struggling to keep berries on the bushes. “I don’t think there will be any records this year,” says Terry. “They are busting all over and the heavy rain is finishing off a lot.”
Terry, whose Just Betty gooseberry of 24 pennyweights and 22 grains, won the show at The Crown Inn last year, is hoping for a better result this time. Several weeks ago a berry from the same tree weighed 30 pennyweights but now like other growers the prospect doesn’t look good. He added: “I think if someone can hold on to a berry of 28 pennyweights it is likely to be the heaviest in our show or any other. They are all struggling” Best of the bunch is expected to be among yellow berry varieties such as Woodpecker, Millenium or Montrose.
Later shows in August may have the smallest berries of the year to put on the scales for the annual heavyweight whopper. And the overall champion in the fiercely-fought contests might be decided by a whisker!
Visitors are welcome to watch the Goostrey Gooseberry Show – as all other shows – at The Crown starting on Saturday at 1 pm. A Junior Show won last year by Joe Banks Williams, eight, is again open to all under 16-year-olds who live in Goostrey and the surrounding area. His winning Woodpecker berry weighed 16 pennyweights and five grains. A prize draw on the day includes dinner for two at the Yellow Broom, Twemlow Green.
**The world record berry is a Millenium of 41 pennyweights 11 grains grown in 2013 by Kelvin Archer, a member of the Marton
and Lower Withington shows.
Apply by 31st July. Three weeks until Goostrey parish residents vote in the Goostrey Neighbourhood Plan Referendum on Thursday 17th August If you will be away and can’t vote in person you can easily apply through the following links for a Postal Vote or a Proxy Vote but must do so by Monday 31st July.