Now it gets serious though, how do we make our conkers unbeatable? Many people have different theories as to how to harden conkers but here's what I do together with notes based on 40 years of experience...
1. Freeze them overnight and then leave to mature for at least a year.
2. Soak them in vinegar - only for a few minutes though, otherwise the conker goes soft and starts to rot from the inside.
3. Roasting a conker toughens up the shell - you want to bake the conker slowly at a low heat oven until the shell hardens. Roasting them at too high a temperature just makes the shell go all wrinkled.
4. Soak them in vodka or whiskey - if they do go soft you can just drink the "juice".
5. Paint with clear nail vanish.
6. Spray with cheap hairspray.
Of course,the best conkers are the oldest, as Roald Dahl explains in his biography ‘My Year’- “…a great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore formidable." Hardening your conker on purpose might be considered cheating and this year contestants at the Poulton International Conkers Tournament on October 2nd will have their conkers subjected to forensic testing to crack down on cheats at the village competition if judges suspect foul play and contestants at his years World Championships will not be allowed to use their own conkers. Instead they will be supplied with conkers from the organisers "Conker Pool", but hey, it's just a bit of fun and I want my conkers hard! Remember also the importance of taking the time to drill the hole for your conker carefully. Hacking out a hole with a nail will cause splitting and weaken your conker.
Conker challenges have been around as far back as 1848 in the UK with the World Conker Championships starting in 1965. Originally, the game was played with snail shells!!! but today it’s the conkers of horse-chestnut trees that rule supreme, and my kids and me are doing our bit to make sure this bit of autumn fun does not die out. It appears that schools have banned kids from playing conkers cos' it's too dangerous! One school local to me even supplied kids with safety goggles last year so as to avoid any eye injuries... what has this namby pamby country come to? Go on, get your conkers out.