Conkers, a British Sport

It is now September in the UK, and it is time for the game conkers, a game that has been played for generations.

A conker is the seed of the horse chestnut tree, and it is in September that they become ripe and the seeds are ready to be picked.

A Conker Tree or Horse Chestnut Tree

As a young boy I remember being taken as a treat by my father into the nearby countryside, into the fields which were surrounded by hedgerows and large horse chestnut trees, and we would collect loads of conkers which had fallen from high above, assisting those yet to fall by heaving a branch into the tree.

Conkers on the tree, note the shell split on the right hand seed.

The aim was to select the best conkers, which will become “one-ers“, “two-ers” and so on in the game of conkers at school.

Once home the best conkers were found, that would not be defeated in the game. The shell would be strong so that it would not split when hit, and would be large enough to give a good hit.


A hole would be drilled through the conker, so at a piece of string could be placed through it and would dangle at the end.

We would try as many tricks as we could to harden the nut. Perhaps soaking it in vinegar overnight and then leaving it to dry for days, or to bake it in the oven. We had many ideas and methods.

We were ready for battle.

There will be two players, each with a conker on a string.

One player will dangle their conker down on the string, and the opponent will wrap their conker string around their hand and hit their conker against the other’s conker as hard as possible, the aim being to destroy the opponents conker.


Each opponent will take turns hitting the other’s conker.

There are rules to the game.

If the opponent who is doing the hitting, misses the dangling conker, then the one who is dangling their conker has two hits awarded against the other.

If the one who is dangling the conker drops it,  and the hitter shouts “stamps“, they can stamp on the conker thus destroying it, but if the dangler shouts “no stamps“, the conker is saved.

If the strings become entangled, the first to shout “strings“, gets an extra go.

The game ends when a conker is knocked off the sting, and the winner is awarded a point. Thus two new conkers having no points, the winner will become a “one-er“.

In the next battle or game, and the winner of the first battle (a one-er) is defeated, then the winner of the new battle will earn the points of the defeated conker, in other words, the losers “one-er” points plus the point for winning the battle, becoming a “two-er“. If the defeated conker had an accumulated title of a “ten-er“, then the winner would become an “eleven-er“.

A great British game which is now banned in many schools as the poor child could hurt themselves. Yes I sometimes had my knuckles hit by the opponents conker, and yes it did hurt, but there was no lasting effect, and I never heard of broken bones, blood being drawn from fellow school friends.

Yes we have strange customs.