Conker enthusiasts sling it out in world championships

A competitor takes part in the annual World Conker Championships. PIC: PA
A competitor takes part in the annual World Conker Championships. PIC: PA
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Autumn revellers are battling for a place at the top of the horse chestnut tree, as they sling out their differences at the World Conker Championships.

Hundreds of conker kings and queens descend on the village of Southwick, Peterborough, each year for a day of “great old British fun” - but despite the friendly array of stalls drink stands to keep people occupied between matches, the competition isn’t without its hazards.

Organiser St John Burkett, 57, who has been arranging and participating in the event for more than 20 years, said poor technique can often lead to aching limbs.

His pro tip for avoiding injury: strike at an angle.

He said: “Don’t do a hard downward stroke, because the conker will almost certainly swing down and hit you in the arm!

“You’re probably better aiming from the side.”

Burkett, an educational adviser from Barnack, Peterborough, said the day offered championship attendees a chance to relax and make the most of the autumnal sunshine.

He said: “It’s a really nice family day. It’s very friendly - there’s lots of people and with the weather like this today it’s beautiful.

“It’s a very gentle, relaxed day and there’s nobody bossing you around telling you to do things.”

Despite a blustery start to October and some less-than-ripe conkers on the ground, former soldier Ray Pearson, 81, managed a first-round win alongside his Chelsea Pensioner chums.

He said: “Like all battles in all wars you always want to win.

“But like I always say to my grandchildren: no-one can win if you don’t play.”

Mr Pearson, who works as the editor of Tricorne Magazine at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, said the day offered the chance for some “great British fun” and welcomed the money the championships raised to help the visually impaired.

He said: “It’s all a bit of fun, it’s great.

“People are supporting it, and if it raises money for the blind too, then so much the better.”

A men’s, women’s and group winner will be decided before an overall world champion is crown later on Sunday afternoon.