As every English school boy knows (and plenty of school girls too), October is the month when the mighty Horse Chestnut tree delivers its autumn bounty. In parks throughout the land, children break open the prickly cases and fill their trouser pockets with smooth, shiny conkers. Some may dream that they might, one day, become World Conker Champion.
The World Conker Championships take place in Southwick, a quiet village in Northamptonshire, on the second Sunday of October. They were first held in 1965 and the event has grown steadily over the years to now attract entrants from all over the world. Each player is provided with a conker with a hole driven through it which they dangle at the end of a piece of string with a knot at one end. One player holds their string up, keeping their conker steady, while the other whacks it as hard as they can with their conker. Each player has three strikes on their opponent’s conker before swapping turns. The winner is the one whose conker doesn’t break. The loser is left, quite literally, to pick up the pieces.
Tricks such as boiling your conker or soaking it in vinegar are strictly forbidden and repeated tangling of strings can result in disqualification. Participants compete in men’s, women’s and children’s categories to be crowned King or Queen Conker after a series of knock-out rounds. As well as being great fun, the family-friendly event raises money for charities for the blind and visually impaired.