27 November 1998

Norfolk grower weighs in with heaviest beet…

A sugar beet will never be a

thing of beauty but it can

grow to a handsome size as

Tessa Gates found when

she joined visitors to the

Farmland Museum and

Denny Abbey, Cambs on

Sugar Beet Sunday

WHAT do you do with an entry to the National Heaviest Sugar Beet Competition that is too big for the scales? You saw it in half of course.

Sacrilege it may be but needs must when you have been promised scales that will weigh up to 15kg but a set that will weigh only 7.4kg is delivered. With weight the deciding factor in the contest staff at the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey made the executive decision to cut the largest entries in half for weighing.

The competition was first held in 1983 at the Haddenham Farmland Museum, now closed. "We started the competition when a farmer came to my husband Mike to tell him about a really big sugar beet he had grown, and made the suggestion that we ran a competition to find the heaviest one," explains Lorna Delanoye who ran the museum with her husband on their farm.

Now their collection of farming implements and bygones, along with the Fossey collection, has found a new home at the museum alongside Denny Abbey, which was opened with funding from the National Lottery. This was the first time the heaviest sugar beet competition has been held there.

The competition had lapsed for some years but there was a good show of entries for the three classes: Heaviest field grown sugar beet, heaviest sugar beet grown in surrounding parishes (Landbeach, Waterbeach, Stret-ham and Cottenham) and heaviest sugar beet in Cambs. Before weighing the beet were trimmed but by how much caused a little discussion. Should they just have the green trimmed from them or should the tops be cut as required by the beet factories? The green trimming was ruled correct for the day. The entries came from as far away as Shropshire and as close as from the other side of the barn where they were being weighed.

The heaviest field grown beet was entered by Richard Carter of Manor Farm, Crumplesham, Kings Lynn, Norfolk and weighed in at 13.04kg. He was awarded a hand-carved trophy of a sugar beet and beet knife on a yew plinth, which his son James (8) was pleased to hold for him.

The trophy was carved by arable farmer Arthur Gilmore of Meadow Farm, Whittington, Kings Lynn.

Alan Martin grew the heaviest sugar beet in Cambs (7.158kg) and put its size down to the fact that heavy rain washing downhill to his fields early in the season had thinned his rows out rather more than he would have wished.

The winner from the surrounding parishes was grown by F C Palmer & Sons and tipped the scales at 4.315kg.

Next year there may be some new classes to enter. Seeds were available for children to take away and grow specially for the contest, and special growing conditions and even feeding with sugar syrup will be allowed for one class. There may also be a section for the most unusually shaped beet but a most beautiful sugar beet class is not being planned.