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Conkers

Conkers is a particularly British sport. Although it is gradually catching on elsewhere in the world, you will almost only ever found it played in Britain.

A conker is the fruit of the horse chestnut tree, also known as the conker tree. The seed pod that drops from the tree is green and spiky, but when it hits the ground it splits open to reveal the shiny brown conker inside. The seed pods ripen and drop from the tree in September and October, so this the season when the sport of conkers is mainly played in Britain.

Children collect as many conkers as they can from the ground. The children carefully drill a small hole through the centre of the conkers, and then each conker has a string about 12 inches (30 cm) long strung through the hole. A thick knot is tied at the end of the string so that when the other end is lifted, the conker dangles at the end of the foot-long string like a pendulum.

The sport is played as follows: Two people each string their conkers as explained above. Each player then takes it in turn to hold their conker up by the end of its string so that it dangles like a pendulum. The other player then attacks the dangling conker with his own, swinging it like a hammer in a vertical arc so that it hits (if possible) the dangling conker. Then the players swap over, and the attacking conker is dangled while the one that was dangled before is used to attack it.

Sooner or later, one of the conkers will break. The player who owns the broken conker has lost the match, and the other player can chalk up another victory. Serious conker players become proud of conkers that have won a large number of matches. A conker that has smashed one other conker is known as a "one-er". When it breaks another conker, it becomes a "two-er", then a "three-er" etc. Some players resort to tricks to improve their conkers. For instance, it is said that you can make a conker harder by soaking it in vinegar or by baking it in the oven.

Here are some web sites about conkers, which you might like to visit:

www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/conkers.html

web.ukonline.co.uk/conker/archive/conkers.htm


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