There’s a lot more to growing a gooseberry than you might think.
We take a look at the winning entries from this year’s Goostrey Gooseberry Show and try to pick up some tips along the way, as well as learning a bit more about how the craze began.
(Full results can be found further down this article.)
Chris Jones completes the double
It’s been a difficult year for gooseberry growers, but against the odds the Goostrey Gooseberry Show went ahead – with some impressive berries harvested for this year’s event.
Chris Jones was the overall winner for the second year running – but record temperatures provided a significant test for even the most seasoned of gooseberry growers.
Many stalwarts of Goostrey Gooseberry Society – including veterans Terry Price and Derek Hardacre – were unfortunately unable to keep their berries going until show day this year.
Secretary Martin de Kretser, said: “It is a credit to all the growers who managed to bring berries to the show box, and good to see a number of new growers with berries this year.”
Despite the early prospect of heavier weights, overall berry weights were down on last year.
Cream of the crop
Chris Jones demonstrated his skill and experience and managed to produce the heaviest triplets (not seen for quite a few years) and the heaviest red gooseberry, white gooseberry and green gooseberry.
Chris is also the current record holder for the heaviest green gooseberry ever shown in Goostrey – a Bank View of 37 pennyweights and 20 grains.
He said: “It’s been quite a difficult season to grow this year, with the early onset of hot weather and it’s about keeping everything watered – and hopefully the trees will hang on because we’ve still got two more shows to go to yet!
“I’ve got on Tuesday at Egton Bridge near Whitby, and Allostock Show held at The Dun Cow near Knutsford.
“It’s like the mad fortnight – from the end of July to the beginning of August all the shows are crammed in.”
The secret of a winner
Asked about his secret to growing a show-winning gooseberry, Chris said: “There’s really no secret. It’s about building up the ground over the years and rebuilding it.
“That’s the soil and the gravels you put in, and obviously keeping a good stock of trees.
“Every autumn we take cuttings from some of the best trees that we’ve got, and that’s your new stock for years to come.”
“The great thing is we’ve still got a great tradition in Goostrey.”
The best of the rest
Emma Williams came second this year with a Montrose weighing 24 pennyweights and 02 grains, while Nick Hassall came third with a Millenium weighing 22 pennyweights and 21 grains.
Emma also won the heaviest twins with a Montrose of 36 pennyweights and twenty one grains.
Nick Hassall won the Championship Show Plate with a set of Milleniums.
It was a good day for the Hassall family as Dave Hassall Snr produced his heaviest berry for over 20 years for a dead heat for fourth place with secretary Martin de Kretser.
Dave Hassall Jnr, meanwhile, managed a respectable seventh place in his first season showing with a Montrose of 20 pennyweights and 19 grains.
He also won the secretary’s prize for the Heaviest Maiden Premier Berry.
This year’s most improved grower was Steve Edwards and this year’s wooden spoon was awarded to Simon Worsley.
Gooseberry societies of the world
Our research indicates there are ten gooseberry societies globally – and eight of these are based in Cheshire, forming the Mid-Cheshire Gooseberry Association, and only one is based outside of the UK.
Goostrey Gooseberry Society is one of the most established.
The full list of societies in Cheshire are:
- Allostock (Crown of Peover)
- Goostrey (The Crown)
- Holmes Chapel (Victoria Club)
- Lower Peover (Crown of Peover)
- Lower Withington (Red Lion)
- Marton (Waggon and Horses)
- Over Peover (The Dog)
- Swettenham (Swettenham Club)
The other UK society is Egton Bridge near Scarborough, and the only other we found reference to is Skillinge in south-east Sweden.
In Cheshire, results are collated from the eight societies and recorded in an annual register.
Gooseberry growing craze
Gooseberry growing is a craze that first started around the 1800s.
It was popular across the UK, with over 200 societies around the country.
It died out a bit just after the first world war, and now there are fewer than ten societies left in the UK.
Goostrey is one of the biggest in the Mid-Cheshire association, and has been going since 1897 – with a show held ever year without fail, even during the pandemic.
It’s all about who can grow the heaviest gooseberry – and there are four colour categories: red, yellow, green and white.
The first step is the actual variety – a lot of the show varieties have been grown locally.
Gooseberry growing is competitive, so there are rules and criteria to follow.
The day before the show, two witnesses observe the growers picking their berries. The berries then go into a box and the lid is tied down with string and sealed with wax in front of the witnesses.
The box isn’t opened until the start of the show – and the opening is witnessed by the gatherers who picked the day before.
This year there were around 15 growers entering the competition in Goostrey, which is understood to be a respectable turnout given recent weather conditions.
There are usually up to around 25 members who enter the competition – but this year a number of them lost their berries due to weather or pests or other misfortune.
The average weights of the berries were also down on previous years shows – and this has been attributed to the weather.
Frank Carter lived in Blackden (near Goostrey) all his life.
He was head gardener at Jodrell Bank, in the experimental gardens of the University of Manchester’s biology department.
When he retired he continued to work at the visitor centre, and he was a legendary Goostrey gooseberry grower.
He developed 16 new gooseberry varieties, and many of them still grow the heaviest berries shown today.
The names of his cultivars chart aspects of his life and reflect the time of their naming.
They include: Montgomery, Prince Charles, Firbob, Blackden Gem, Just Betty, Christine, Montrose, Mr Chairman, Bank View, Blackden Firs, Roots, Woodside, Millennium, Newton Wonder, Bellmarsh, Crystal and Jodrell Bank.
Results in full – Goostrey Gooseberry Show, 30th July 2022
1st C Jones, Edith Cavell, 25.22
2nd Mrs E Williams, Montrose, 24.02
3rd N Hassall, Millenium, 22.21
4th M de Kretser, Montrose, 21.15
5th D Hassall Snr, Edith Cavell, 21.15
6th G Buckley, Edith Cavell, 21.01
7th D Hassall Jnr, Montrose, 20.19
8th D Carter, Belmarsh, 20.06
9th Mrs G Garner, Montrose, 18.14,
10th S Edwards, Blackden Gem, 14.14
11th Ms V Hedge, Belmarsh, 14.11
12th Ms R Ollerenshaw, Blackden Gem, 11.16
13th S Worsley, Lloyd George, 7.23
1st C Jones, Edith Cavell, 36.10
1st Mrs E Williams, Montrose, 36.21
2nd N Hassall, Millenium, 36.02
3rd M de Kretser, Montrose, 31.12
4th C Jones, Edith Cavell, 31.04
5th G Buckley, Millenium, 30.05
6th D Hassall Jnr, Millenium, 27.10
7th D Carter, Millenium, 24.06,
8th D Hassall Snr, Edith Cavell, 24.02
9th Ms V Hedge, Firbob, 14.10
1st C Jones, Just Betty, 23.04
2nd Mrs E Williams, Lloyd George, 22.13
3rd Mrs E Williams, Lloyd George, 21.09
4th M de Kretser, Blackden Gem, 19.22
5th M de Kretser, Blackden Gem, 18.17
6th D Hassall, Jnr Lloyd George, 18.10
7th C Jones, Just Betty, 18.01
8th N Hassall, Blackden Gem, 17.14
9th G Buckley, Blackden Gem, 15.15
10th G Buckley, Blackden Gem, 14.20
1th Mrs E Williams, Montrose, 23.04
2th N Hassall, Millenium, 22.11
3th Mrs E Williams Montrose, 21.22
4th C Jones, Edith Cavell, 21.20
5th N Hassall, Millenium, 21.16
6th D Hassall Snr, Edith Cavell, 21.13
7th M de Kretser, Montrose, 21.10
8th C Jones, Edith Cavell, 21.07
9th M de Kretser, Montrose, 20.21
10th G Buckley, Edith Cavell, 20.20
1st C Jones, Bank View, 23.13
2nd C Jones, Bank View, 22.18
3rd M de Kretser, Woodside, 16.09
4th M de Kretser, Woodside, 15.18
5th G Buckley, Allostock, 13.15
6th D Hassall Jnr, Allostock, 12.08
7th G Buckley, Allostock, 10.23
8th D Hassall Jnr, Allostock, 10.18
1st C Jones, Newton Wonder, 20.15
2nd D Hassall Jnr, Belmarsh, 17.16
3rd D Hassall Jnr, Belmarsh, 17.05
4th D Hassall Snr, Belmarsh, 16.22
5th M de Kretser, Belmarsh, 16.21
6th G Buckley, Belmarsh, 16.15
7th G Buckley, Mr Chairman, 16.10
8th C Jones, Newton Wonder, 15.09
9th M de Kretser, Belmarsh, 14.16
10th Ms V Hedge, Belmarsh, 14.03
Championship Show Plate
1st N Hassall, Millenium
1st G Buckley
2nd [N/A] *
3rd D Hassall Jnr
1st E Williams
2nd C Jones
3rd G Buckley
1st M de Kretser
2nd [No Entries]
3rd [No Entries]
1st D. Hassall Jnr
2nd [N/A] *
3rd M de Kretser
Four Sets of Twins
D Hassall Snr
* Note: those who win a first or second place plate are not eligible for first or second place in subsequent plate categories.