Goostrey: Champion grower’s trees ‘poisoned’ before gooseberry show

Terry Price, 76, claims his highly-prized gooseberry were ‘nobbled’ by an unidentified villain (Picture: SWNS)

A champion gooseberry grower suspects foul play after 46 of his 50 award-winning trees were ‘poisoned’.

Terry Price, 76, was hoping to reign supreme for the 12th year running at the annual gooseberry show in the village of Goostrey in Cheshire.

But tears were in the grandfather-of-six’s eyes when he was hit with the realisation that his crop had been ‘nobbled’.

He has declined to name his prime suspect but claims to have a ‘good idea’ of who is responsible, warning: ‘The truth will come out’.

The widower, who first entered the show when he was just 18, says his son first noticed the trees ‘looked sickly’ back in May.

He said: ‘They were all my best trees in the pen and I could have cried when I saw them, I thought “oh my god, what has happened”. I couldn’t believe my eyes.’

After soaking them with water in a bid to save them, he continued to follow his usual procedure – but they were dead 10 days later.

He said: ‘Only four trees survived but the berries are little and it will be another 12 months before they are fit for anything.’

The champion grower watches his gooseberry being weighed back in 2020 (Picture: John Williams/SWNS)
He was left with undersized gooseberries in the 2021 Goostrey Gooseberry Society annual awards (Picture: John Williams/SWNS)
The grandad-of-six had won the competition for 11 years straight (Picture: John Williams/SWNS)

Left in disbelief, Terry had laboratory tests carried out that proved his trees had been sprayed with a formula not available to the public.

The former butcher still managed to come in seventh in the race to present the heaviest gooseberry on July 31.

But Terry – who is president of the Goostrey Gooseberry Society is determined to discover who dismantled his road to glory.

He said: ‘I could have cried when I found out because so much work goes into it and then it’s all gone just like that. I’m sure whoever is responsible knows what they were doing.

‘They know exactly where my best trees are and that’s what they’ve targeted, which is why this year’s competition has been such a struggle.’

Speaking about the society, he added:  ‘Don’t get me wrong we are all competitive and want to win but at the end of the day we’re friends and get along.

‘We go to the pub afterwards and have a good time. I have never seen anything like this before, it’s very strange.’

Chris Jones, 69, won the competition this year with a 45g gooseberry. He dedicated his win to his brother who died with Covid just 24 hours before.

2021 winner Chris Jones, who produced a 45g whopper for the judges (Picture: John Williams/SWNS)
Terry has warned that ‘the truth will come out’ (Picture: John Williams/SWNS)

Terry hasn’t informed police of the incident as he has no leads to offer them.

Martin de Kretser, secretary of the Goostrey Gooseberry Society, said any gooseberry grower who turned out to be guilty would be banned for life. 

However, he ‘finds it hard to believe’ this could be the case.

Mr de Kretser said: ’I do hope that it wasn’t a deliberate act and just a mistake in using contaminated compost or accidental spraying with the wrong chemicals. It is easily done.’

Despite this year’s heartache, Terry says he will be back bigger and better than ever in 2022.

He said: ‘I’ll definitely go for it again next year, although I might have to lock the pen up this time.’

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