Why go bonkers for conkers? What’s it all about? A conker is the fruit of the Horse Chestnut Tree. It’s a glossy brown nut about the size of a small tomato. The conker develops in a prickly case, ripens in September and October and falls to the ground. Conkers is a traditional game involving knuckles and nuts; the conker is threaded onto a shoe lace and swung hard, with the aim of thwacking and smashing your opponent’s conker. For generations it’s been a sound which quickens the heart of the young, and the young at heart.

How to play conkers

Ditch the comfy chairs, touch screens, buttons, controllers and fantasy worlds. Exit the super safe, centrally heated, untouchable, two dimensional, temperate world of gaming and virtual reality. The night’s may be drawing in but it’s time to kick off your slippers, slide off the sofa, log off the laptop, go out on a limb and experience the risky cut and thrust of actual reality. It’s elementree. All you need is a shoelace and a few nuts. You also need conkers. Cast iron knuckles and nerves of steel are optional. May the forest be with you.

In a nutshell: The traditional (not World Championship) rules (courtesy of Ashton Conker Club at

• Make a hole with a drill or a skewer exactly through the middle of the conker (adults only, and even then, take care!)

• Use a strong piece of string or boot lace long enough to be wound twice round the hand with at least eight inches length after tightly knotting at the bottom.

• A conker is more likely to survive if it is the striker not the stricken. Secure first strike by calling out ‘first’ or other traditional terms such as ‘my firsy’, ‘firsy jabs’, ‘first swipe, ‘first donks’, ‘first hitsy’, ‘bagise first cracks, ‘iddley, iddley, ack, my first smack’ or ‘hobily, hobily honker, my first conker’.

• The other contestant holds his conker still, at whatever height best suits his opponent, while he attempts to strike it using a swinging downward movement.

• If he hits it the other player has his turn. If he misses he may be allowed two more tries, If the strings tangle whoever is the first to shout ‘strings’, ‘clinks’, ‘clinch’, ‘plugs’, ‘tangles’ or ‘twitters’ has an extra shot. Some play for strings to get extra shots but it is considered bad form!

• The victorious conker adds to its score all the winnings of the other conker plus one so a ‘tenner’ which beats a ‘fiver’ becomes a ‘sixteener’.

This Autumn thousands of ‘conkerers’ invaded the English village of Southwick to experience the World Conker Championships. Conker enthusiasts from across the globe competed in the event, which has so far raised £420,000 for charities which support the visually impaired.

For more information about playing conkers visit World Conker Championships

Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Geoff Sutcliffe, Ashton Conker Club and the World Conker Championships.

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.

You may also like

Sorted Magazine

Sorted discusses the big issues of the day – focusing on subjects as diverse as culture, sport, cars, health, faith, gadgets, humour and relationships. We aim to be positive and wholesome in all we do. And we have been achieving this since 2007.

Every printed issue of Sorted is read by more than 100,000 men in 21 different countries – while digitally, the number of people reading our online content (free and via subscription) continues to soar.




Follow Us



Visit our shop for great gift ideas