Fears soggy weather has smashed conker season

IPSWICH: It dates back to the 16th century and – until health and safety spoilsports intervened – had kept youngsters entertained in playgrounds up and down the country for decades.

But there are fears today that the ancient game of conkers has become the latest victim of our soggy summer.

According to experts, the heavy rainfall which plagued Suffolk last month could severely hamper the popular autumnal pastime because the horse-chestnut tree seeds are too ripe and soft.

The Campaign For Real Conkers (CFRC) claims that cooler weather has made conkers fall prematurely meaning they are not tough enough for battle.

CFRC spokesman Keith Flett said ideally conkers ripen in warm, sunny and dry conditions then fall to the ground in wet and windy weather.

Mr Flett, 53, said: “Normally conkers games would be in full swing by now but there is a real shortage of serviceable conkers.

“The conkers are nowhere near ripe enough yet and people won’t be able to get their practice in.

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“When you whack a conker before it is ripe it will crumble to bits.”

But Sam Pollard, manager of Christchurch Park, said it was too early to say whether conker season would be affected.

“It can be the case that poor weather, or more specifically windy weather, can result in conkers falling early,” he said.

“However, at Christchurch Park most of them are still up in the chestnut trees waiting to fall. I had seen the conker shortage story but to be honest we’ll only know if that’s case in two or three weeks’ time which is traditionally when they fall.”

Joe Underwood, a park ranger at Holywells Park, added: “In previous years we have had trouble with Leaf Miner Moths attacking horse chestnut trees.

“These insects eat the leaves of horse chestnut trees which in turn weakens the trees and the conkers.”

The late crop could pose problems for those wishing to compete in the World Conker Championships held on October 10 in Ashton, Northamptonshire.

n Will you be playing conkers this autumn? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk