Outsider smashes his way to conker title: World media focus on village contest with Olympic aspirations
Monday 11 October 1993
Let us hope there were no Olympic observers at yesterday's world championships in the Northamptonshire village of Ashton. For they would have seen Matthew Tindall, 24, a local who confessed that he had not played since he was eight, walk off with the title.
Last year's runner-up, Charlie Bray, a Hampshire gamekeeper who took the title in 1979 and 1986, admitted that the event's strict rules work against experts like himself. Bray, who has devised a training gibbet with a squash ball to improve his accuracy, says: 'It's about 80 per cent luck and 20 per cent tactics and skill here.'
Foremost among the rules is that the 200 competitors draw a fresh conker, attached to a leather bootlace, for each round. These are picked by stewards from a mile-long avenue of horse chestnuts in the village. This stops traditional schoolboy tricks such as baking or soaking in vinegar.
Conkers was played with cobnuts in the 1600s and even with striped snail shells in the 18th century. When both were displaced by horse chestnuts, the game was commonly called 'conquerors', soon abbreviated to 'conkers'.
The Ashton event, which started 29 years ago, raised pounds 13,500 last year for visual impairment charities. The competition, which attracted about 3,500 onlookers, has worldwide appeal, with film crews from Australia and New Zealand, though the title has only once fallen to a foreigner, the Mexican R Ramirez in 1976. It is also very popular in Ohio, where conkers are called buckeyes (hence the state's nickname, the Buckeye State).
Such global appeal will play a key role in the sport's Olympic hopes. But conkers only have a short season and collecting them in Atlanta or Sydney could be difficult.
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
- 2 Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
- 3 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 4 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...