Who Remembers Hunting for and Playing Conkers?

Jill Holtz

September 28, 2021

horse chestnut conker

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One of Autumn’s pleasures is going out conker hunting and then trying a game of playing conkers. If you’ve never done this before or you’ve forgotten all about them, then here are some fun facts about conkers, how to prepare them and how to play conkers.

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What Are Conkers?

Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree (not to be confused with edible chestnuts which come from sweet chestnut trees).

The leaves of a horse-chestnut tree are very distinctive, forming 5-7 fingers.

Conkers are a hard brown shiny nut that comes in a prickly casing, the casing is usually bright green. You crack open the casing to reveal the conker inside.

You’ll usually find them on the ground underneath a horse chestnut tree as they fall from the tree when they are ripe during the autumn months.

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How to Prepare Your Conkers

Bake them in the oven at 120°C for two hours. Ask an adult to help you as they’ll be hot when you take them out.

Soak them in vinegar for a few days.

Next, make a hole straight through the middle of your conker using a skewer or a nail. (Kids – ask Mum or Dad to help you!)

Cut a 35cm long piece of string and thread it through the hole. Tie a knot at both ends so the conker doesn’t fall off the string.

Tip: Some of the best conkers are older conkers, even ones that are years old. You might want to see if your mum and dad have any old conkers lying around!

The Rules of Playing Conkers

Conkers is a 2 player game. Each player has their conker on a string.

1. Wrap the loose end of the string around your hand. One player should dangle their conker on about 25cm of string, keeping it absolutely still.

2. The other player then swings their conker at it to try to break it.

3. If the attacking player misses, they can have two more chances before it’s their opponent’s turn.

4. Take turns until one of the conkers breaks and you have a winner.

5. A new conker is called a ‘none-er’ as it hasn’t beaten anyone yet. When it beats another conker, it’s a ‘one-er’. If it beats another, it becomes a ‘two-er’ and so on.

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Did You Know? Facts About Conkers

  • The origin of the name ‘conker’ is unclear, but one popular explanation is that it stems from the French word cogner, meaning to “hit” or “biff”.
  • On finding your first conker of the season, you should say “Oddly oddly onker my first conker”. This ensures good fortune and few tangles throughout the coming season.
  • The game of conkers is known as ‘Kingers’ in some parts of the world.
  • Horse chestnut conkers, unlike many other kinds of chestnut seed, are unfit for humans to eat but deer, cattle and horses can enjoy them.

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Hunting for and Playing Conkers

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