|122243. Thu Nov 30, 2006 10:40 am
Q: Where would you find Woodpeckers, Lord Derby, Whites and endless amounts of Fascination?
A: At a Gooseberry Competition.
Gooseberries are judged in four classes: red gooseberries (Lord Derby); yellow ones (Woodpecker); green ones (Fascination) and White ones.
One of the most famous gooseberrry competitions is the annual Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society show at Egton Bridge in North Yorkshire.
Believed to have been started in 1800, the Egton Bridge Gooseberry Fair is a one-of-a-kind. It started out as a big fair, with coconut shires, rides, animals and even a dance in the evening. However, contrary to popular trends, it has stripped itself back over the years to became a pure contest dedicated to finding the heaviest gooseberries of their class.
The gooseberries are weighed on an extremely delicate and precise apothecary scale, which measures in drams and grains. Eighteen drams is approximately 1oz. Past record winners have weighed in at 32 drams, the size of a golf ball.
The Fair attracts about 70 competitors.Prizes include local hams, household goods, and a silver cup for champion berry.
Growers have used a range of methods to get bigger gooseberries, including feeding their gooseberries pigeon poo, potash and sheep droppings. They dilute the sheep droppings with water until it is the colour of weak tea, and then feed it to the gooseberries. Some growers will use umbrellas to protect the fruit from ripening too soon.
Before the First World War, there were 170 gooseberry shows in Lancashire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. After the War, numbers dropped to 20. Now there are only 7; 6 in Cheshire, and 1 in Yorkshire.
In the 1750s, there were 2,500 different varieties of gooseberry. Now there are less than 100.
Gooseberries are also known in the North as goosegogs, golfobs, catberries, grozzles, carberries, goggles, honey-blobs, feaberries, grosets, and grossberries.
Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows, Travels Around the North County Fairs, Harry Pearson, ABACUS.
Andrew Moores, Newsquest Media Group Newspapers, 3 August 2005
Mike Morgan,Evening Gazette, 4 August 2005