Terry Price, 76, has participated in the competition in Goostrey, Cheshire, since the 1960s and has scooped top honours a record 11 times, but this year he claims his chances were scuppered
A champion gooseberry grower claims he lost his title after his prized bushes were killed with a lethal chemical.
Terry Price, 76, has participated in the event since the 1960s and has scooped top honours a record 11 times.
But this year, the reigning champ says his chances were scuppered before they even began after he claimed his highly-prized crop was “nobbled” by another villager, Cheshire Live reports.
Terry, crowned winner in 2020 with a 50g beast, says he noticed his bushes looking ‘sickly’ three months ago and that within only 10 days they were dead.
Since then he has sent some of the plants for laboratory testing and discovered they were sprayed with a damaging chemical formula not available to buy over the counter.
The grandad-of-six says the “sabotage” destroyed his hopes of winning the competition in Goostrey on Saturday, when his top fruit weighed in at 28g, placing him seventh.
Terry, whose wife Stella died four years ago, has not named his prime suspect but claims he has a “good idea” who is responsible and that he’s sure the “truth will come out”.
He said: “They have been tampered with, there’s no doubt about that.
“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.
“I’ve got a good idea about who did it but time will tell. The truth will come out.”
Retired Terry, who previously worked as a butcher, gardener, lorry driver and a postman, first entered the Goostrey Show as an 18-year-old in the mid-1960s and is now its president.
The annual competition pits growers up against one another to see who can present the heaviest gooseberry.
Terry spends a whole year cultivating his crop, which involves keeping it inside a pen and regular watering and feeding of his biggest fruits.
He first noticed something was wrong with this year’s harvest back in May.
Terry said: “I had already noticed they looked sickly and then one day my son was in the garden and said, ‘dad, there’s something wrong’.
“The gate into the pen was open and all the gooseberries were drooping and sad-looking.
“Within 10 days they were all dead. 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.
“Only four trees survived but the berries are little and it will be another 12 months before they are fit for anything.”
Terry, suspicious at the turn of events, then contacted a friend and managed to get some of his plants sent off for laboratory testing.
He said: “I had done everything as I always would, there was nothing different, so I knew that something else had happened.
“I had them tested and the results showed they had been sprayed with a formula that isn’t available to the public.
“It was something very strong that acted as a plant killer.”
Terry said he has “never seen anything like it” in all his years.
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.”
Martin de Kretser, secretary of the Goostrey Gooseberry Society, said: “Sadly Terry has reported potential sabotage with the spraying of his trees with weed killer.
“Needless to say if this was another gooseberry grower they would be banned for life but I find this hard to believe someone would do that to Terry.
“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.”