THINGS TO DO WITH CONKERS
The first recorded game of conkers using a horse chestnut was in the Isle of Wight in 1848. Before this, it is said that snail shells and hazelnuts were used. Possible origins of the word are from the french word 'cogner' meaning to hit or knock, or the verb to conquer, or possibly from the French word Conque, meaning 'conch' (from when they used snail shells).
How to play the game:.
1. Make a hole through the centre of the conker by using a drill / knitting needle / skewer etc.
2. Thread a piece of string through and tie it securely at one end.
3. A game of conkers is for two players. Player one lets their conker dangle down (keeping it as still as possible) and player two has to try and hit the dangling conker by using a downwards motion.
4. Each player takes it in turns until a conker breaks. The person that breaks the other conker is the winner.
5. The winner's conker gets one point and also gets any points that the broken conker had accumulated. (ie if a one-er breaks a five-er, the one-er becomes a seven-er (1 existing point + 1 point for winning + 5 points from the losing conker = 7 points)
6. If the strings get tangled, the first person to shout 'Stings' or 'Stringsies' gets another go.
7. If the conker falls on the floor, if the attacking player shouts 'Stamps' he gets to stamp on the conker and thereby probably end the game. However if the defending player manages to shout 'No Stamps' first the conker is saved and the game can continue.
8. There are various techniques for hardening a conker - ageing / baking / Soaking in vinegar, but this is generally considered cheating!
KEEP THE SPIDERS AND MOTHS AWAY
Conkers appear around the same time that it is Spider Season when all the really big spiders with really long legs, like to come inside your house. It is said that placing conkers on your windowsill can deter spiders. Apparently the conkers release some sort of chemical that spiders do not care for so they will avoid going near them. This has never been proven, but if it makes you feel better then go for it! It is also said that moths do not care for conkers so it might be worth placing some in your cupboard as a natural moth repellent!
A CONKER CATERPILLAR
A very easy fun toy. Take the conkers and make a hole through the centre of each one. Thread a single piece of string through each conker, tying it securely at both ends, but make sure to leave enough string at one end so that you can pull it along! You could even decorate each bit of the caterpillar if you so wished - tippex, paint, glue and glitter etc. There is no limit to the creativity!
It's really quite amazing how many things you can make from a plain old conker. Conker people, conker animals: conker hedgehogs, conker spiders, conker snails, conker birds, conker bats, conker reindeers and so much more!... You can also turn conkers into Christmas decorations - they make excellent baubles.You can even make them into the perfect-sized miniature chair for a doll's house with the aid of some tooth-picks and string! If you are using them as decorations, make sure that you dry them out a bit first otherwise they may go mouldy. All you need is a selection of crafty things such as toothpicks, pipe cleaners, blue tack or glue and sticky eyes. Air dry clay is also very handy for unleashing your creativity!
A CONKER NEWTON'S CRADLE
This is a little more challenging but very satisfying once complete and a very good lesson in momentum and energy. A good one for any school science projects looming! Watch our video here.
A CONKER PRANK
This one is always fun. The conker season is also very conveniently coincides with the shops stocking up on their Halloween wares. Most shops will have some form of eyeball balls which fit very well into the shell of the conkers. A lot of fun (for the prankster) to secrete an eyeball into the shell and then let the prank victim open it!
PLANT A CONKER
It has recently been reported in the news that Conker Trees (Horse Chestnut Trees) are under threat of extinction. This has been caused by moths - their larvae burrow into the leaves which turn them brown and therefore reduce the amount of food the tree can absorb through photosynthesis. A disease called bleeding canker has also played its part and has killed off many trees. This is a very alarming prospect - trees are vital to sustaining our planet and the conker trees are an important source of shelter and food for many species of animals. Let's do our bit and keep these trees going! To successfully grow a horse chestnut tree: 1. Place your conkers in some water. Some will remain floating (they have dried out) - you can plant the ones that sink. Plant the conkers about 2cm deep in in a pot of soil / compost and place them in a sheltered spot outside. 2. Keep them watered and wait for them to germinate. This should happen in the spring. They can be planted when they have reached around a foot in height, which would probably be approaching autumn. (Do bear in mind when planting, they will grow rather tall - they can reach up to 40m and live for 300 years!)
>>See all of our LISTS of the best things, places and activities.