Things to do in Lincolshire…
As leaves begin their metamorphosis from green to red and orange, youngsters everywhere have one thought in mind… playing conkers.
The traditional British children’s game, played using the seeds of a horse chestnut tree, dates back to the early 19th century – when it was originally played with snail shells and hazelnuts.
From the 1850s onwards the horse chestnut became the preferred choice for the game, and has remained so for more than one hundred and sixty years.
It will soon be the season for conker contests once again.
So why not brush up on the rules and scoring before the games begin…
Gather your conkers
A conker is the seed of the horse chestnut tree.
The seed is a hard brown nut, which grows inside a green prickly casing (seed pod).
When the seed is ripe, the green outer casing will turn brown and split open revealing the conker inside. It’s at this point they fall from the tree, making them easy to gather.
Each seed pod can contain a number of conkers.
Remember, for playing conkers you want to pick the best and the strongest. So choose conkers that are firm, not cracked and symmetrical.
Place your gathered conkers in a bucket of water.
You will notice that some sink but others float.
Discard all the floaters.
Select the most dense, which have sunk to the bottom of your bucket.
You will need to make a hole through the centre of your conker (get a grown up to help you with this) and thread a strong cord (string, thin rope or shoelace for example) through it.
Tie a knot in the cord so that it can’t pull back through the conker.
Your playing thread should be about 25cm long.
The rules of the game
Two players take it in turns to strike each other’s conker to see which one is the strongest.
Both players should wrap the thread their conker is hanging on around their hands a few times, keeping it secure at all times.
The striker draws his conker back for the strike.
The opponent holds their conker at arms length and lets it hang down on its string at a height chosen by the striker. It should be held perfectly still.
If it swings, the striker is permitted to steady it before taking their strike.
The players take it in turns hitting each other’s conker until one of the conkers is completely destroyed.
A preferred method for striking is to hold the conker itself between two fingers, lift it high in the air, swinging it down it a wide arc, and letting go of the conker as it gains maximum momentum to strike the opponent’s conker. Holding the conker in this way helps aim.
If a striker misses hitting their opponents conker they are allowed up to two further goes.
If strings tangle, the first player to shout “strings” gets an extra shot.
If a hit conker flies around in a whole circle (called ‘round the world’) the striker gets another go.
If a player deliberately moves his or her conker while waiting for it be hit, the striker is allowed another go.
If a player drops his conker, or it is knocked out of his or her hand, the striker can shout “stamps” and jump on it. However, if the owner of the conker manages to shout “no stamps” first, the conker must be left alone to be retrieved.
If a conker that has never been used before is victorious in destroying another unused conker, it scores one and becomes a ‘one-er’.
If, in the next game, it breaks another new conker, it becomes a ‘two-er’ and so it goes on.
But, once this conker is defeated, its score is added to the other person’s conker. So if a two-er is destryoed by a new conker, the victorious player would then have a three-er conker for exampler.
But, if conkers in a contest have both already broken others, then the scores of both conkers are added together and awarded to the winner. So if the winner was using a three-er and beat a two-er, then the score awarded to the winning conker would be five.
At the end of the season, the highest scoring conkers are the ultimate champions.
A really good conker could go for several seasons.
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