Autumn in England

Autumn in England

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.
So I spend almost all the daylight hours on the open air.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

This could almost be the mantra of the contestants of the:
The 2013 World Conker Championships
which will be held at
The Shuckburgh Arms in Southwick,
near Oundle, Northamptonshire on
13th October 2013.

The World Conker Championships are held on the second Sunday in October every year. Thousands flock to watch this great spectacle of modern day gladiators fighting for glory, armed only with a nut and 12″ of string. Over the years, Geddington has had teams competing and has proudly produced some winners. Will we see more? It’s easy to take part; web link below will get you there.


The first recorded game of conkers is believed to have taken place in the Isle of Wight in 1848, but organised by Ashton Conker Club, the competition first took place in 1965, and as well as a wonderful day out for all the family, they raise money for charities for the blind and the visually impaired.

There are separate Men’s, Ladies’ and Junior competitions; teams are more than welcome and there is a Team Award for the team whose members progress furthest through the competition.

World Conker Championships 2013 Timetable

9.30 am

Registration Starts

9.30 am

Stalls Open

11.00 am

Registration Closes

11.00 am

Start of play

2.00 pm

Conker Finals followed by
presentations and raffle draw

3.00 pm

Close of stalls

4.00 pm

Live music at the pub!

The event starts at 10:30 a.m. and finishes at 3:00 p.m.
As a spectator, the entrance costs are £2 for adults and £1 for senior citizens and children. Family tickets (2 adults and up to 4 children) cost £5. Car Parking is FREE!

The Game of Conkers

Horsechestnut Tree
Horsechestnut Tree in Grafton Road, Geddington

The game of conkers probably evolved from a game called ‘conquerors’, which was originally played with snail (conch) shells. A variant of the game was later played with hazelnuts, on strings. By the 20th century these earlier games had almost universally been replaced by the version we now know using horse chestnuts.

There are, of course, many regional variations in the rules of the game and it has also been known by different names. In parts of the Midlands around Worcestershire it was known as ‘oblionker’ (pron. obly-onker) and play was accompanied by such rhymes as ‘Obli, obli, onker, my first conker (conquer)’. The word oblionker apparently being a meaningless invention to rhyme with the word conquer, which has by degrees become applied to the nut itself.

Conker On String
Conker on a string

Each player has their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns at hitting their opponent’s conker. If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped round your hand. A 10 inch (25 cm) drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses and you must hold it perfectly still.

Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponent’s conker with it. If he misses he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” or “snags” gets an extra shot. Players take alternate hits at their opponent’s conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other’s conker. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout “stamps” and immediately stamps on the conker; but should its owner first shout “no stamps” then “stamps” is disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact.

Conker Swing
Conker swing

In playground tournaments a winning conker can then go on to do battle with other conkers, each victory adding to the conker’s score. A conker which has won one battle is called a “one-er”, two battles a “two-er” and so on. So for example, you might overhear a child saying “I beat his five-er with my two-er”. In this case, and depending on which rules you play by, the winning two-er might simply become a three-er or it might become an eight-er (two previous victories plus the victory over the five-er plus the five-score of the five-er). In this way winning conkers can quickly accumulate quite large scores!

At the World Conker Championships in Ashton, Ashton Conker Club supplies the conkers ready drilled and laced to ensure fair play, thus preventing the use of any tricks to harden the nuts. Competition rules do not allow “stamps”, while “snags” do not give an extra swing – in fact causing “snags” is considered bad sportsmanship and can lead to disqualification.