North Northamptonshire village ready for World Conker Championships

There is still time to enter the championships

By Alison Bagley
Friday, 1st October 2021, 5:00 am

A north Northamptonshire village is gearing up for the return of the greenest sport on the calendar at the World Conker Championships in Southwick near Oundle.

Organisers have collected, graded and chosen the 4,000 premier quality horse chestnuts needed for the battle beneath the trees to crown the king and queen of conkers.

Raising funds for impaired sight charities the day-long contest on Sunday, October 10, will see the 250 competitors in knock-out rounds - all within strict guidelines.

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People of all ages can enter the contest

Chairman of the organising committee James Packer, also known as the Terminutter, will not be entering the championships but has encouraged everyone to give it a go as more recent generations have lost the knack to knock.

He said: "We are delighted to be putting on the competition this year after the disappointment of having to cancel last year.

"One of our secret sources of conkers is from a school. Children are forbidden to even pick up the conkers. I think health and safety has gone way too far.

"I'm English and it's a quintessential game. I come from an age when you could play it. Children nowadays don't know how to play conkers anymore, but we will teach them."

Northamptonshire will host the World Conker Championships

And it's not just children who have become less skilled in the traditional autumn pastime of school playgrounds and back gardens.

Mr Packer, 55, said: "A few years back I had to teach Ben Fogle how to play conkers. The Blue Peter presenters came along and they'd never really played before."

People of all ages can enter with under 16s free to enter the younger age categories with instructions on how to play from more seasoned players, as conkers is becoming a less played game.

Entry to the site is £7 for adults, £5 for children and £15 for a family ticket. Money will boost the nearly £450,000 raised for impaired sight charities since 1965.

King Conker will lead the parade at 11am

A thorough Covid risk assessment plan has been put in place and social distancing, signage, and sanitisation stations will be at the site.

As well as the competitions children's rides, Morris men, juggling workshops, pub games, food, refreshments and real ale will be available - all serenaded by Palmy Ukulele Band.

Former BBC Northampton reporter Martin Borley-Cox will be compering the event from the control tower above the arena.

Mr Packer added: "As ever this is a great opportunity to become a world champion. Travel from abroad is still restricted so we may not have as many overseas players this year, so you have a greater chance of winning and getting crowned on the throne by King Conker.

"The amazing Innocent is sponsoring this year's event. We aren't sure who's more bonkers for conkers - us or them - especially after thy claim to invented a 'conker' smoothie milk drink. We are looking forward to having them along side us, they will be giving out their 'conker' drinks from a stand at the championships.

"We are the greenest sport there is. It's the ultimate ecological sport. Completely harmless and natural.

"There's still time to enter and you might even be able to enter on the day."

To enter the competition go to open at 9.30am, battle commences at 11am and the winner is expected to be announced shortly after 3pm.