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.
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!
Still llife photo of conkers. Photo taken last year at Bodnant Garden in North Wales last year. What a great trip out that was. We walked round the large garden grounds. Down into the river valley, past huge and ancient trees. Late flowering perennials and bushes. Its a charming place to visit, but be aware it is hilly. Its a National Trust site so its very well maintained. There are small shops trading there, a garden centre and a cafe/restaurant.
Great for a visit when the garden is in full bloom, especially the laburnum walk. You can join the National Trust or pay when you visit. BUT check opening times, it does close in the winter and with the lockdown for the pandemic there will be changes to visiting and probably closures.
It’s that time of year, who said “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?
A glut of pears, a bowl of acorns and a plate of conkers and pinecones. If we were hunter gatherers this would be a bountiful time. Nuts and fruit. Perfect.
Nowadays the squirrels eat the acorns. Carefully burying them in caches in the woods to eat in winter, and creating baby trees in the meantime. Children harden conkers in vinegar and play Conkers with them. Holes are drilled through them and a knotted string is threaded through. Each child takes it in turn to swing their conker and try and smash another child’s one. If they succeed they can call their conker a ‘one-er’ smash two and it’s a two-er etc. Until the winning conker has smashed all its opponents. The last bowl – of pears? Well they are nice, poached with custard or cream, baked in a pie or even a cake, and apparently you can eat them on a pizza with gorgonzola cheese!