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World Conker Championship in Northamptonshire

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Conker competitions are usually the domain of children messing around in autumnal gardens.

But for one week every year the conker challenge goes up a gear in Ashton, Northamptonshire, when the town hosts the World Conker Championship.

On the second Sunday in October every year thousands of conker connoisseurs flock to the ancient market town of Oundle to take on lots of other hopefuls, armed with their winning nut and a 12-inch stretch of string.

The Ashton Conker Club has been hosting the competition since 1965 and has seen the event grow from a small event to a worldwide meet for fans of the game.

Eight white podiums are erected in the playing arena each year and hopefuls compete in either the men's, ladies' or junior competition, either as individuals or as a team.

Competitors go through rounds until a winner emerges and is lead to the Conker Throne and presented with a conker crown.

Due to the growing popularity of the event, in 2009 it relocated from Ashton's small village green to a larger venue several miles away.

For those attending the event to support loved ones or simple to enjoy the spectacle on a day out, there is also a range of stalls and sideshows for visitors to enjoy.

The attractions are designed to entertain but also have a serious side - they are raising money for charities for the blind and visually impaired and in previous years as much as £20,000 has been raised.

While the heritage of the competition is very much rooted in Oundle, in recent years it has become an increasingly internationally-flavoured event, with competitors travelling from all over the world to take part.

In 1976 the title went overseas for the first time following a Mexican success and in 1998 more then 50 overseas players competed in the competition and the men's title was won by the German player Helmut Kern.

Furthermore, in 2000 it was Austria's turn to celebrate when Selma Becker took the ladies' conker crown, firmly indicating that the days of assuming that the winner would be a local had passed.

So those hoping to compete and win the conker crown will need to be practising all year round to be in with a shot of taking one of the coveted titles - unless, that is, they are lucky enough to be born with a natural aptitude for conker competitions.


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