Country Life Today: The ‘Holy Grail’ of gooseberries has been grown in Yorkshire

This morning's news looks at the world's greatest gooseberry show, the nature reserve the size of Dorset waiting to be used in Britain and the accidental colonisation of the moon.

‘I have been trying a long, long time. It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime gooseberry’

There were wonderful scenes at the internationally-famous Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Show in Yorkshire as a gardener named Graeme Watson broke the record for the heaviest gooseberry ever grown.

Mr Watson’s took home the highly-coveted Champion Berry at the show, which has been held since 1800 on the first Tuesday of August.

‘It was picked last night, it was a little bit of a surprise,’ he told the BBC. ‘I got my hands on it and thought, “this is a good one”.’

He wasn’t mistaken: the gooseberry weighed 64.56g (just over two and a quarter ounces), beating the previous record of 64.49g which had stood for six years.

‘I have been trying a long, long time,’ added Mr Watson, who is now a ten-times champion at the event. ‘It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime gooseberry for most growers. It’s the Holy Grail of gooseberry growing.’

Mr Watson took great care to make sure that the gooseberry arrived in perfect condition since split or burst berries are discarded. He brought it to Egton in a miniature carrying box padded and surrounded by egg trays — and even then he didn’t dare put it in the boot. ‘I had it on my knee in the car just in case we hit any potholes or cattle grids,’ he added.

How to grow a prize-winning giant gooseberry, by the winner of the 2019 Champion Berry title (Country Life)


‘Britain has a wildlife reserve the size of Dorset ready to be created if we want it. All we have to do is take less care of our roadsides.’

Blue iris thriving on the M25 embankment in Buckinghamshire.

Blue iris thriving on the M25 embankment in Buckinghamshire.

Local councils are rather good at keeping roadside vegetation trimmed down — rather too good, according to a new study. Tom Whipple in The Times reports on research that shows that the life that teems in our roadsides would be far better off if it were cut back much later in the year. Given the amount of road in this country, that’s 2,400 sq km of land where nature could be thriving.

Benjamin Phillips, from the University of Exeter, explains that mowing ‘is mostly for safety reasons. The plants are growing up, and by May or June are a metre tall. They are cut at that point to maintain visibility. The problem is that cutting in the middle of summer does really bad things. There are eggs, larvae and flowers. It never gets good again for the rest of the year.’

Full story (The Times)


On This Day… Roger Federer was born

Roger Federer celebrates after winning his fourth round match against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001. It was the first time Sampras has lost a match at Wimbledon in five years. Pic: Gerry Penny/AFP/Getty Images

Roger Federer celebrates after winning his fourth round match against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001. It was the first time Sampras has lost a match at Wimbledon in five years. Pic: Gerry Penny/AFP/Getty Images

Forget all that talk about not being able to compare eras and whatnot. Roger Federer — born on this day in 1981 — is the Greatest of All Time.


Israel has accidentally colonised the moon with thousands of miniature bears

Really, we’re not making this up.

An Israeli spaceship crash-landed on the moon in April, accidentally releasing thousands of Tardigrades — or water bears, as they’re more often known. These tiny creatures — just 1mm long — can survive incredible extremes of temperature from almost absolute zero to 150 degrees Celsius.

They can also exist in a perfect state of dehydrated animation, able to be reanimated years later. So while they won’t be roaming the moon, they’ll be ready to go the first time that somebody turns up with a watering can. (Admittedly, that might be a while.)

Full story (BBC)


Quote Poem of the Day

The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella
But mostly on the just because
The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.

Charles Bowen (1835-1894) gives his classic update to the famed line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.


And finally… this dog. Brilliant.

If you’ve got one who can top this, you need to enter him or her for Britain’s Naughtiest Dog.

Competition: Do you own Britain’s Naughtiest Dog? (Country Life)