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Grower reaches ‘Holy Grail’ with ‘world’s heaviest gooseberry’

Graeme Watson, from North Yorkshire, hopes to have broken the record with his 64.56g ‘little beauty’.

Graeme Watson with his world record gooseberry (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Graeme Watson with his world record gooseberry (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A man who hopes to have broken the world record for the heaviest gooseberry has described the achievement as “the Holy Grail of gooseberry growing”.

Graeme Watson, 59, from Ainthorpe, North Yorkshire, said it was a “good feeling” to have potentially broken the record with his 64.56g “little beauty”.

But he said it was a “race against time” to submit the champion fruit to Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show before it lost too much weight.

A spokeswoman for Guinness World Records, which will need to officially verify Mr Watson’s accomplishment, said: “If someone believes that this record may have been surpassed… then we would love to hear from them.”

Mr Watson’s gooseberry, a yellow variety called Millennium, weighed in at 64.56g at 9am – beating around 30 other competitors and the current world record of 64.49g, which Guinness World Records says has been held by Kelvin Archer, of Scholar Green, Cheshire, since 2013.

The record was previously held by Bryan Nellist, from North Yorkshire, in 2009 and before that again by Kelvin Archer in 1993.

Mr Watson told PA: “It was picked last night, it was a little bit of a surprise. I got my hands on it and thought, ‘this is a good one’.

“It was nice and ripe, which means they weigh a little bit more than an unripe one. When I got it on the scales I couldn’t believe how much it did weigh.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night when I realised this might just happen. I had a bit of a sleepless night. The nerves were a bit jangly this morning but I was trying not to show any emotion.

“I have been trying a long, long time. It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime gooseberry for most growers.

“It’s a good feeling. It’s the Holy Grail of gooseberry growing.”

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Judges weigh the gooseberry submitted by Graeme Watson (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Mr Watson said the fruit begins to lose weight from the moment it is picked.

He said: “It was a race against time to get it to the show and get it officially weighed. I had to sweat it out to make sure it hadn’t burst on the way.

“I had it in a box like a little mini suitcase. A mini carrying box padded out inside and lined in egg trays. I had it on my knee in the car just in case we hit any potholes or cattle grids.”

According to previous news reports, the long-standing rivalry between Mr Nellist and Mr Archer lead to a clash over the differences in fruit weighing systems in North Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Growers in the north west record gooseberry weights in pennyweights and grains, with a pennyweight equalling 1.55g, whereas in Yorkshire growers use a system of drams and grains, with a dram equivalent to 1.77g.

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A selection of gooseberries submitted by Graeme Watson (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Mr Watson said the key to growing record-breaking gooseberries was “attention to detail”.

He said: “It can be a little bit testing where we live but it doesn’t stop us from trying.

“We have to keep the bushes healthy, keep pests off them, get the fertiliser requirements right. It’s just paying attention to detail.

“Have to protect them later on in the year when they’re getting ripe. I use umbrellas over them to stop them getting wet and they don’t particularly like hot sun.”

Mr Watson is a member of Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society, which was established in 1800 and runs the show annually on the first Tuesday of August.

He said: “You join an elite band when something like this happens.

“I just love the tradition of our society and our history. They’re a lovely group of people as well. Things go the same way at the show as they would have done 50 years ago.

“The way the gooseberries are weighed, the way it’s recorded, that’s what it is for me.”

Mr Watson said the society would be seeking to get his record ratified by Guinness who did not have a representative at the show.

PA

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