Around the perimeter of our garden stand some huge horse chestnut trees that were probably planted a hundred years ago. From the kitchen table, we watch each year as the first green buds appear and the tree bursts into leaf and then the candle like spikes of blossom appear. Ignoring the lower branches where the leaves turn brown because the caterpillars of leaf-mining moth attack them, the trees in summer are a majestic sight providing shade and effectively screening that which lies behind.
Now that autumn is just around the corner, everything starts to drop from the horse chestnut trees. In the middle of the night, when all is quiet, conkers drop noisily onto the tin roof of the garage and bounce down. Walk under horse chestnut trees at this time of year and you’ll hear the thud as the conkers hit the grass. Just watch out that you don’t get hit on the head by a spiny cased conker plummeting downwards. Under the trees, conkers and their cases lie amongst the fallen leaves. Some cases fly open as they hit the ground, sending case and conker in opposite directions while others sit in the grass, slowly splitting to reveal the glossy mahogany coloured conker or sometimes two conkers inside.
Conkers can’t be eaten, they lose their shine almost overnight if you bring them inside and appear to have little practical use other than that for which they’re designed ie growing more horse chestnut trees. Some people swear that conkers placed strategically around a room prevent spiders or that a handful in your clothes will deter moths, but I’m not sure there’s any scientific evidence to back up these claims.
It seems that the only thing to do with conkers is to admire them where they fall or gather up a few and spend the evenings dangling a conker on the end of a piece of string while someone else tries to bash the hell out of it. I had hoped to show you my “conquering conker” (a 2-er because it had beaten two others) but Bill smashed it to smithereens last night. Never fear, I have another one ready to string up for tonight’s return match.
We country folk have simple pleasures.
You can find a detailed explanation of playing conkers here