10 things you didn’t know about Conkers!

26th October 2016

Wear gloves, wear googles, wear a helmet! The humble game of conkers has got a bad reputation over the past few years. However, in the days before iPads and Snapchat, children had to be inventive and imaginative when it came to entertaining themselves.

Bonkers for conkers illustration with swinging conker

This humble pastime was once looked forward to with much enthusiasm (and not a pair of goggles in sight). And although we might not be able to fully revive a craze that’s had its moment in the (late autumn) sun, but by writing a few words, we’re hoping a few children will ‘string up’ and this great game will live on.

10 Smashing Conker Facts

1. Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree.

illustration of a chestnut tree

2. Conkers were only introduced to Britain in the 1600s.

 

3. The first recorded game of conkers dates back to 1848 on the Isle of Wight.

 

4. Until conkers arrived in Britain, the game conkers was played with hazel or cob nuts or even snail shells.

 

5. Spiders are said to hate conkers. It may only be an old wives’ tale, but even today some people still place conkers around to their home to ward off arachnids.

illustration of spider and conker

6. The World Conker Championships started in 1965 when four local fishermen were in the Chequered Skipper pub. They decided to gather some conkers from the village green, ‘string up’ and the rest is history.

 

7. In 2001, Norwich City Council came under criticism for wanting to chop down seven horse chestnut trees. It was because they thought falling conkers were a danger to pedestrians.

8. There are a number of ways to prepare the perfect conker. Some people harden conkers by pickling them in vinegar and painting them with nail varnish – others bake them in the oven and some players even use last year’s crop.

illustration of nail varnish pot
illustration of conkers soaking in vinegar

9. Extracts from horse chestnuts have been used to treat malaria, frostbite and even ringworm!

 

10. The origin of the name ‘conker’ is unclear but it’s believed that it comes from the French word ‘cogner’ meaning to hit.

How to Play Conkers

swinging conkers smashing together

Wrap the loose end of the string around your hand.

One player should dangle their conker on about 25cm of string, keeping it absolutely still.

The other player then swings their conker at it to try to break it. You can toss a coin to see who goes first.

Take turns until one of the conkers breaks and you have a winner.

If the attacking player misses, they can have one more chance before it’s their opponent’s turn.

If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” or “snags” gets an extra shot.

If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout ‘stamps’ and can stamp on the conker; but should its owner first shout ‘no stamps’ then ‘stamps’ is disallowed and the conker should (hopefully) remain intact.

A new conker is called a ‘none-er’ as it hasn’t beaten anyone yet. When it beats another conker, it’s a ‘one-er’. If it beats another, it becomes a ‘two-er’ and so on.

Now switch off the computer (or put down your hand-held device) and go conker collecting! It’s fun.

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