by Miss Roberts

Watercolour sketch of a horsechesnut seed and its shell

Conker and it’s shell. By JV

I found these in the shadowy park by the disused school where the old tramps sleep. There were absolutely loads of them scattered all over the floor, their little spiky backs threatening my flimsy shoes, and Monty’s paws (my dog). It reminded me of when I was a child, my brother and I used to collect bag loads of them to play conkers with. We’d take them home and test out ways of hardening then – soaking in vinegar, boiling, coating in varnish.  One particularly hard looking one would be picked from the bunch and we’d be convinced it was going to be the champion at school, but I don’t actually remember ever getting round to playing conkers at school, too worried our superior conker might get damaged.

Apparently now, in the Conker World Championships, we’d be banned for cheating, competitors can only use the non hardened conkers provided.

The word conkers refers to the game rather than the nut itself, which is the seed of the horse-chesnut tree, the name conkers may come form the word Conqueror. A similar game used to be played with snail shells. Now all this researching conkers has led me to buy this book, which I’m sure I will be quoting later in a blog.

Here’s how to play the game via Wikipedia:

The game

  • A hole is drilled in a large, hard conker using a nail, gimlet, or small screwdriver. An electric drill such as a “Dremel” using increasing drill-bit diameters at intermittent intervals, produces less internal damage to the nut’s core and is highly effective during the hardening period / process. Once ready for action, a piece of string is threaded through it about 25 cm (10 inches) long (often a shoelace is used). A large knot at one or both ends of the string secures the conker.
  • The game is played between two people, each with a conker.
  • They take turns hitting each other’s conker using their own. One player lets the conker dangle on the full length of the string while the other player swings their conker and hits.
Conker seed and shell

Horse-chesnut seed and shell. Silverpoint by JV Roberts