Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut leaf today. On a sapling. The leaves are larger than a man’s hand, deeply segmented and split into seven sections. The tree will grow very large and when it starts to flower it will grow large white flowering bracts. Then in the autumn it develops nuts called Conkers. These are encased in a spikey shell that you have to peel off. This is the thing that children make holes through and then use to play the game conkers. Basically each person has one of them. They drill or pierce the nut with a skewer fron the top to the base. It is then threaded onto a string. Two children / people stand opposite each other. One holds up their conker and swings it at the other one. If it hits it can either knock the other conker or split it. If it doesn’t break the other person takes a turn. The conker is called a “one-er” if it survives. Each time it doesn’t break the number goes up, so “two-er” and so on. Some people bake conkers or soak them in vinegar to strengthen them.

So basically when you hear about a game of conkers that’s what it is. The trouble comes when you try and get them off the trees. We have a row of them on the main road. Children throw sticks and stones up at the branches to get them down which can be a hazard if you walk or drive underneath them.

Horse Chesnut

This trees flowers make Chesnuts when they are fertilised and mature.

Chestnuts are big brown nuts or seeds. They have hard shells and children gather them up in the autumn to play the game Conkers.

The local children throw sticks up into the tree to knock the chestnuts down. Then they make holes through them and thread them onto string tying a knot at the bottom so the Chestnut (or Conker) doesn’t fall off.

They take turns to swing one conker against the other until one of them cracks and breaks up. There are various tricks to try and make the chestnuts harder, like for instance soaking them in vinegar.

The more conkers a child hits and breaks, the more important the child’s conker is. If it’s only broken one it’s a ‘oner’ a six would be a ‘sixer’ the winner is the person whose conker does not disintegrate and beats all the other ones.

Probably not a game played much these days. But I remember playing it until my friend conker accidentally hit the knuckles of my hand. Ow!