(click to enlarge) Photo credit: Emma Williams
Martin’s wooden spoon spanks rival growers. From John Williams:
A novice grower pipped his rivals after graduating from the award of the wooden spoon to beating all comers with the heaviest berry at Goostrey Gooseberry Society show. After one of the worst growing seasons for years, Martin de Kretser tipped the scales with a Blackden Gem berry weighing 23 pennyweights 19 grains.
Martin, who lives in Goostrey, came last in the competition at The Crown Inn at his first attempt only four years ago.
The enthusiastic newcomer was not downhearted in defeat and on Saturday proved determination wins.
His premier berry, a tiddler compared in years when entries are heavier, beat longtime growers, including Terry Price, the reigning champion, placed fourth.
Terry’s Blackden Firs berry of 21 pennyweights 20 grains was also beaten by Emma Williams, the show secretary, with a Millenium variety of 23 pennyweights 13 grains, missing the premier spot by a whisker to come second.
And veteran grower Doug Carter was unable to muster a berry heavier than an Ann Archer of 22 pennyweights 21grains to gain third place.
Martin confessed he was stunned at the outcome but said he was grateful for support and help and advice of seasoned growers and show members.
“I still have a lot to learn, but the key seems to start off with a very good soil, good trees and keeping them constantly cool and moist and protecting them from the variability of our climate,” he said.
He added: “The weather has certainly been challenging through the ripening stages with changes in temperature and rainfall. It seems to be just a question of being vigilant and trying to keep growing conditions uniform as possible.”
But it was another relatively new grower, Griselda Garner, who surprised members when she walked away with four silver trophies, including the Frank Carter Cup for most points in the show from various classes. Her premier Edith Cavell berry of 20 pennyweights 05 grains was placed seventh.
She put her success down to the quality of soil tilled for 4,000 years at her Blackden home, Toad Hall and the Medicine House, where the late Frank Carter, a legendary Goostrey grower was born and raised award-winning gooseberries.
Weights in surrounding villages fared much better than Goostrey with world champion Kelvin Archer defeated at Lower Withington by John Porter with an entry of 34 pennyweights 08 grains.
Ironically the show stopping berry named Ann Archer was from a variety originally raised by Kelvin and named after his wife.
Eight-year-old Joe Banks Williams won the junior place for the second year for the Dave Garrett Memorial Cup, just beating entries from two other youngsters, Grady Alderdice and Cori Lee.
Show president Terry’s hope of retaining the silver trophy for the premier place was thwarted when a berry of more than 30 pennyweights burst a little more than a week before the century-old annual event.
Martin was awarded the C R Griffiths Cup for the premier berry, the prize for the most improved grower and the Frank Carter memorial plate.
Emma had the satisfaction of gaining the G E Capper Cup for the champion show plate and Martin took home the John Egerton Cup for the heaviest red berry.
The only other trophy winner was Gareth Buckley, whose top berry a Jodrell White of 21 pennyweights 16 grains came fifth. He was awarded the cup for the heaviest sets of four twins of each colour on the same plate and the challenge cup for the top plate of assorted berries.
The cups were presented by Griselda’s husband, Alan Garner, the children’s author and writer, who said his memories of the show sixty years ago were of being lit by paraffin lamps.
“It was like a Dutch oil painting,” he added.
After the weighing, Emma Williams said although the size of the berries this year was disappointing, the show itself had been well up to its usual competitive spirit and enjoyable.
“We would certainly like younger members to get involved in the show, anyone living in the parishes of Goostrey and neighbouring parishes would be most welcome whatever their age to help to retain this village pastime,” she said.