GOOSEBERRY grower Peter Goode, twice winner of Goostrey’s show with a Prince Charles berry, has almost been toppled from the throne as the family’s heavyweight champion – by his wife, Nicola, writes John Williams.
Peter, whose 33 pennyweight berry took top spot a week ago at the Goostrey contest at the Crown, won success after raising berries for 25 years.
And their son, Jamie, nine, a pupil at Holmes Chapel Primary School, also became a family champ when he gained the junior trophy at the same show with a Belmarsh berry of 26 pennyweights and nine grains.
Now Nicola, a novice grower of only six years, has come within a whisker of beating Peter’s heaviest berry by winning the Swettenham Club show at the weekend with an Ann Archer berry of 32 pennyweights and fifteen grains – only a fraction below her husband’s heaviest berry.
Nicola, the first woman ever to win the the Swettenham show, thought she had little chance of success when she looked at her bushes tangled in a mass of chickweed on the eve of the show.
But as Peter cleared the bushes for the official picker, Chris Jones from Goostrey, to see what he could find for Nicola’s entry he felt a clutch of whopping-sized fruit hidden among the foliage.
“I just thought ‘Oh, my God’ as soon as I felt what was there,” said Peter.
“I asked Chris to take a look and he said the same. I just couldn’t believe it as I had only just said I didn’t think there was anything worth picking for the show. It was the last tree I looked at and there were actually four berries all over 30 pennyweights. She certainly sneaked in with that one but I am very pleased for her.”
Nicola, who also collected a clutch of other prizes at the show, pipped veteran grower, Tom McCartney, in the place for the premier gooseberry.
Her Ann Archer berry was cultivated by world champion grower, Kelvin Archer, at his cottage garden at Rode Hall, near Congleton, and named after his wife.
Said Nicola: “I still can’t quite believe my success, and what is nice I think we are probably the only husband and wife growers to win the premier award in the same year at two shows.
“I had no idea there was any tree in my pens with a berry of such a size but they were hidden in its heart.”