At some point in the future the ancient sport of conkers is going to be exclusively played by demented revivalists complete with the period costume of schoolboy shorts, torn shirt and baggy socks as they desperately seek to live out a fantasy where not all entertainment is administered by a handheld device.
They’ll meet at authentically themed weekends, eat Wagon Wheels, drink Tizer like it’s going out of fashion and send things called ‘postcards’ to tell everyone what a lovely time they’re having. In fact, we’re not that far from this very scenario already.
‘Virtua Conkers’ or real conkers?
As thousands of schoolchildren amble home these autumnal afternoons tripping over the brown shiny artefacts and idly kicking their spiky cases whilst playing ‘Virtua Conkers’ on a DS, a bunch of dedicated conker fans are doing their bit to ensure the sport’s very survival. Since 1965 the World Conker Championships has been held in Northamptonshire and has grown from a lost weekend in a pub to a mighty event that draws competitors from all over the world.
In recent years
With visitor numbers so great a new, larger venue was required and unfortunately, the organisers haven’t been able to find one, but as with all clouds there is a silver lining. The lack of a big venue has meant that things have gone back to their roots and three separate events are being held at the following pubs:
The Ship Inn, Oundle
The Rose & Crown, Oundle
The Shuckburgh Arms, Southwick
The Bull Public House, Peterborough.
The Ashton Conker Club
These events are all recognised by the Ashton Conker Club, which is pretty much like the MCC of the conker world and whilst you’re thinking that life doesn’t get much better than a weekend playing conkers in a pub, you should be warned that there are strict rules to be adhered to in order to take part. For instance, you can’t rock up with your own weapon of choice that’s been soaked in bat urine and baked in the oven.
Unstrung conkers please!
You’re asked to bring unadulterated, unstrung conkers which are more than 4cm in diameter and then these are all handed in for drilling and each competitor will be given one from the pot. There are lots of other guidelines which can all be found at the official site.
Men, Ladies, Juniors
The competition is split into men, ladies and juniors (up to 14) and each of the venues will hold their events over the weekend of 13th/14th October, with The Bull Public House going that bit further by combining conkers with a snail racing competition. Let’s just hope after a few pints of Mild small round things don’t become too muddled in peoples’ minds.
This will be a triumphant weekend for a great British sport, so if you have a young relative why not take them along and watch as they marvel at human beings interacting with each other recreationally and not a touch screen in sight.