Its Conker Time!

A horse chestnut tree

A walk in the park this time of year will reveal a popular children’s game hidden amongst all the fallen autumn leaves underfoot. It’s Conker Time of course!

Conkers is a game for two or more players. Each player starts with a conker threaded on a length of string and take turns to strike the opponent’s conker. The winner is the first person to break their opponent’s conker.

The leaves of a horse chestnut tree

The hunt begins with a horse chestnut tree. Conkers are the nuts found in the green, spiky seed pods that fall from the horse chestnut tree when they are ripe in autumn (these are not edible chestnuts so never eat these!). The trees can be found growing in streets, parks and forests all around the UK and they can grow up to 36 meters tall, which makes for one big tree! One way to identify them is to look at their leaves. Horse Chestnuts have 5 – 7 leaflets on each leaf and can measure up to 60cm across.

Conkers on a horse chestnut tree

The Best Conkers
So once you have found your conker tree, what do you need to look out for? The best conkers tend to be round, shiny and ripe, with no cracks. Most of the fallen spiky seed pods will have one conker inside, but if you’re lucky you’ll find some with two or three.

Get your Conkers Ready

  • Once you get your conkers home, test the strongest ones for playing with. Get a bucket of water and place your conkers inside. Any that float are hollow and haven’t formed as well and can therefore be discarded. Keep the sinkers, or the heaviest, for playing conkers.
  • Get an adult to pierce a hole through the conker making sure it doesn’t leave any cracks which make it easier for your opponent to break your conker.
  • Thread a length of string (around 25cm) or a shoelace through the hole in your conker and tie a tight knot in one end to secure.
  • Your are now ready to play conkers!

You’ll find conkers amongst the fallen leaves in Autumn

Rules of the Game

  • Players take it in turns to hit each other’s conker. Player 1 lets their conker dangle on the string, arms length away, whilst Player 2 swings their conker and attempts to break it.
  • If a player misses the conker on their first swing, they can retry up to two times.
  • The conker that breaks the opponent’s conker gains a point and wins.

Scoring at Conkers

A conker ready for play

  • A new conker, playing for the first time is called a none-er, meaning it has not won any games. Once your conker has won its first game and received one point, so it becomes a one-er. If the same conker wins another game and therefore another point, it would be a two-er.
  • If you are playing against a conker that has won 10 games (a ten-er) and you win, then you would receive one point for winning, plus all the points from the losing conker. In this instance you would win 11 points which can be added to your score.
  • If a two’er plays a four’er and wins, then it wins a point for winning the game, plus the loser’s score (four) – this can be added onto the two-er’s original score of two. In this case, the two’er becomes a seven-er (2 + 1 + 4)
  • This is a good scoring system for establishing how good your opponent’s conker is.
  •  The conker that wins may not necessarily be the striking conker as striking too hard can cause the attacking conker to break, leaving the defender as the winner.
  • Remember to hold onto your conkers tightly and at arm’s length to ensure the conkers don’t fly through the air when striked.
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