That old chestnut? Take the conker quiz!




Take the Conker Quiz! Are these statements true or false?

1. Pig poo is the best place to find your winning conker.

True: The great conker player, Charlie Bray, used to swear he had hardened his conkers by passing them through the belly of a pig. They were pickled in the pig’s stomach juices before popping out the other end. Cunning conkerers know that the toughest nut wins!

2: Kids must wear goggles to play conkers.

False: In September 2007 the Health and Safety Executive stated: “This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth. A well-meaning head teacher decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers. Subsequently some schools appear to have banned conkers on ‘health & safety’ grounds or made children wear goggles, or even padded gloves! Realistically the risk from playing conkers is incredibly low and just not worth bothering about. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that’s a discipline issue, not health and safety.”

3: If you can’t find a shoelace and a conker, a crane and a caravan are perfectly reasonable alternatives.

True: In 2008 BBC2 Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond and James Mays staged a mild ‘elf and safety gorn maad’ type of protest. They played a massive game of conkers using cranes and swinging caravans wearing, you guessed it, goggles. The Youtube video, Caravan Conkers, has generated 3.2M views.

4: Sir Michael Palin is a conker champion.

False: The English actor, writer and television presenter of Monty Python fame, was disqualified from the 1993 Isle of Wight Conker Championships for baking his conker and soaking it in vinegar. The first recorded game of conkers is believed to have taken place in the Isle of Wight in 1848.

5: Eleven and three quarters is the ideal age to play conkers.

False: This myth is linked to school boy conker hero, William Brown, of ‘Just William’ fame. In 2017 85-year-old Chelsea Pensioner, John Riley, proved that playing conkers can be enjoyed at any age when he utterly thrashed the competition and won the Men’s World Championship.

6: ‘Conker’ is the name of a red squirrel with a cult following.

True: ‘Conker’ starred in the graphic adult oriented 2001 Nintendo 64 computer game ‘Conker’s Bad Fur Day’.

7: In 1803 the poet, Lord, Byron, was waiting for his betrothed in the church yard when he was inspired by an enormous conker lying among the autumn leaves. He penned the poem below, which later became a personal favourite of his friend the Earl of Bridgewater. The young Earl had the words engraved into an elaborate stone tablet located among the Horse Chestnut trees just inside the main gates of his Estate.

“Under the chestnut tree, there waits for me, a sight so marv’llous to behold

Amidst the Autumn leaves it gleams at me, a conker beautiful and bold.”

False: Totally false, I made it up, but you were almost ready to believe me, right? These are the lyrics of a children’s song written by Mark and Helen Johnson, published and produced by Out of the Ark Music for Primary School Harvest and Autumn Assemblies.

8: To go first at Conkers you must bow, then take off your hat, balance on one leg and shout out: “Hail the Chestnut Tree! Grant me victory!”

False: Absolutely false, but I had a lot fun making this one up too! Regional rules and verbal declarations vary but the traditional (not World Championship) rules state that “a conker is more likely to survive if it is the striker not the stricken. Secure the first strike by calling out “first” or other traditional terms such as “hobily, hobily nonker, my first conker!”

9: Anglers launched the World Conker Championship.

True: The World Conker Championships began in Ashton in 1965 when a group of villagers unable to go on an organised fishing trip decided to play conkers instead.

10: The location of some conker trees is a closely guarded secret.

True: To keep the competition as fair as possible, the Ashton Conker Club (World Conker Championship organisers) collect over 1,000 conkers from horse chestnut trees in the village and from secret locations. During years when local supplies are low they import conkers from elsewhere.

11: No one cheats when playing Conkers.

False: In friendly competitions getting away with cheating appears to be an integral part of the fun! Artificial hardening techniques are even passed down through the generations. Famous cheats include: Stuffing your conker up the chimney to dry it out, baking it in an oven, leaving it on a radiator or in a pocket. Other traditional cheats include pickling in bat urine, vinegar, salt water, soda or paraffin, painting with varnish, injecting with superglue, filler or resin or leaving in the dark for a year. The Ashton Conker Club (World Conker Championship organisers) supplies all conkers for the World Championships in order to rule out any cheating!

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.

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