Conkers In London: Where To Find Them, Where To Play

Forget PSLs and the release of Saw XXXIV — autumn is all about the conkers! Here’s our hard-hitting guide.

London hosts two major conker championships each autumn. Image: Elizabeth McCafferty/Londonist

Sorry, I was busy playing on my Wii — what’s conkers again? The act of nurturing the fruit from a horse chestnut tree until it’s as hard as Jason Statham, attaching it to a bit of string, then making your best friends/arch enemies/children cry by battering their opposing conker into wood chips.

Wasn’t conkers banned or something? Some people seem to have thought so; in 2019 there was even a petition to ‘reinstate’ conker playing in schools. To which the government responded “There’s no law or government policy banning children from playing conkers, so we’re not sure exactly what you’d like the Government or Parliament to do.”

So conkers isn’t dangerous? Obviously don’t go shinning right up to the tops of trees, but the worst story we can find about conkers in London concerns a bloke who slipped on some running from London to Brighton and twisted his ankle — and surely the moral there is don’t run from London to Brighton.

Had to feature this terrifying stock image. Image: iStock/blackjake

Where is the best place to find conkers in London? You’ll find plenty of horse chestnut trees dotted here and there, but parks are of course your best bet. Peckham Conker Club has a great guide on where to source your conkers from, which includes Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens, Morden Hall Park, Hampstead Heath, Greenwich Park and Tower Hamlets’ Victoria Park. You could also try your luck at the legendary Wood Street Horse Chestnut, which is one of arboreal enthusiast Paul Wood’s faves.

Are there any conker tournaments I can take part in? There are two biggies in London each year:

Peckham Conker Championships (Saturday 7 October 2023, 3pm-6pm) This urban conker tournament, which plays out outside the breweries/in the alleyways of Peckham, is for the tough nuts. Its ‘Battle Royale’ rules mean that nut-pimping, stampsies and basically any kind of cheating are allowed. It’s all in the name of winning the coveted ‘Golden Nut’ — a 22 carat gold conker. There’s a Juniors and a Seniors competition and we predict tears at both. If you want to play, you’ll need to reserve a place — 300 people turned up in 2022!

Hampstead Heath Conker Championships (Sunday 8 October 2023, 12.30pm-4pm) By all accounts a more laid back affair, with the picturesque setting of the Parliament Hill bandstand. The ‘Grand Conker Meister’ oversees competitions of various age categories. There are also family nature activities and live music from Mad Dog Bites on the bandstand, so all rather bucolic — although don’t get us wrong, destruction is still on the menu. Show up around 12.30pm on the day to enrol.

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