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The Forgotten Fruit

Ribes uva-crispa, better known as the Gooseberry, recipient of hours of devotion

Egton Bridge, eight miles from Whitby in the North York Moors National Park, is the setting for the oldest surviving gooseberry show in the country, established in 1800.  The show is held on the first Tuesday in August each year by the Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society.

After the 2020 show fell victim to the pandemic anticipation was high for 2021 show and it did not disappoint.  It was a wonderful show day that saw a seventh title for Bryan Nellist after tense ‘Berry Off’.  After missing last year due to COVID, and the sad passing of the society chairman, Colin Gray, the 220th Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show took place at St Hedda’s School on Tuesday and Bryan Nellist took the title after two berries had to be re-weighed in a ‘berry off’ to determine the champion.  Bryan’s berry and the one entered by Paul Bennison were both weighed at 26 Drams, 18 Grains (47.2 g).  To determine the champion the berries were again placed on the balance, but the result remained too tight to call so for once the Society turned to modern

Graeme Watson with his record breaking berry

Photo © Own Humphreys/PA Media

Copyright © Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society.  All rights reserved

Egton Bridge

Gooseberry Show

Avoirdupois system, which logged a weight of 36 drams plus 12.5 grains (rounded down to 12 grains in the register).  However, a secondary measurement taken on a set of digital scales, which can provide a more precise reading, wielded a slightly greater weight of 64.83 g; this latter weight was the measurement accepted for the record by Guinness World Records Ltd.

The yellow Millennium berry beat Kelvin Archer’s  existing 2013 record by just 1 grain.  The BBC News website declared “Yorkshireman grows the ’Holy Grail’ of gooseberries”. 

In 2018 the show was graced by the presence of 12 members of the Skillinge Gooseberry Society from Sweden.  Over 25 years ago their chairperson, Berit Åkesson saw a small glimpse of the show on the BBC and was so fascinated that a new gooseberry show was born

In 2018 the 12 visitors from the Skillinge Gooseberry show in Sweden recreated this classic old picture in the grounds of the Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge

and 2018 saw the Skillinge Krusbärsfestival celebrate its tenth anniversary with a visit to its inspiration.

The 221st show will be held on Tuesday 2nd August 2022 and it is open to the public from 2 PM.  There will be music playing in the afternoon and the prize giving will begin at 6 PM.  Members are reminded that berries must be with the judges by midday at the latest.

weighing technology and Bryan was declared victorious after goldsmith’s scales were used to prove it weighed 0.02g more than its competitor.  Without doubt this is the closest finish in more than 200 years of competition at Egton Bridge. 

Bryan said: “It’s just unbelievable really. I thought my winning days

Bryan Nellist with his winning berry

Photo © Paul Anthony Wilson

were over - I was hoping to get a prize, but certainly not the top one.  It was a delight, absolutely.”  Society Chairman, Graeme Watson said: "We had a great show, everyone was delighted, and the weather was fantastic.  There were two berries of the same weight, and the only way to split them was I had a pair of gold scales. They weigh to the hundredth of a gram, and the difference was two one-hundredths of a gram.”  Graeme added "I don't think we've ever had a dead heat. To my knowledge, it's the closest it's ever been. The judges couldn't see a difference - it was only those scales that could judge it."

The competition received wide spread press coverage including the Guardian and the Yorkshire Post.

Overall the 2021 show was a huge success.  There was a large crowd to enjoy the sunny weather and tight competition, many just pleased to be at a show after all local shows had been cancelled last year.  The local ukulele orchestra, The Eskuleles entertained the crowd with their rousing mix of popular numbers before the prizes were awarded.  In memory of Colin Gray his family have donated a new trophy, the Colin Gray Memorial Trophy, for the Champion Grower and the excitement of this year’s show is hopefully a fitting tribute to Colin’s memory.

The 2019 show was another record breaking event.  Defending champion Graeme Watson produced a truly amazing berry which has regained the world record for Egton Bridge.  The gooseberry was initially assessed using the society's traditional