Shortage of conkers drives experts bonkers

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The Independent Online
This summer's drought has done untold damage - not least to the World Conker Championship. Big names from the sport are frantic about the shortage of horse chestnuts for the forthcoming event.

With the annual championship just 10 days away and fewer than 100 conkers in the can, the organisers are sending out an SOS: Calling all conkerers - please send us your stash.

John Hadman, 63, secretary of Ashton Conker Club, Northamptonshire, is doing his nut. His phone is "hot'' with calls from contestants as far afield as Australia and the United States worried about whether the championship will go ahead.

He needs 1,000 conkers of the right shape and size, but so far has just 50. "In 1976 we had a similar problem but we sent out an SOS and eventually had plenty," he said.

Mr Hadman, an archaeology teacher, insists that even though two championships have been called off, cancellation is out of the question for the 31st Pearl World Conker Championship, due to be held on Ashton village green on 8 October.

He may be at a loss as to where to collect his conkers, but Mr Hadman has plenty of suggestions on their origin - the first inter-conkernental ballistic missiles may have been Roman, or the sport may have started in South America with the Conkerquistadores.

None of this helps the King Conker, who will have to kick off this contest with a necklace of rejects.