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That old chestnut! Pub landlord to host conkers contest for Dereham kids

PUBLISHED: 15:37 06 October 2017

Paul Sandford, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt

Paul Sandford, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

A Dereham landlord has been inspired by his grandsons to set up a conkers championships for the town’s children.

Landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, Paul Sandford, (pictured with his 2 year-old grandson Charles Buchan) is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt Landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, Paul Sandford, (pictured with his 2 year-old grandson Charles Buchan) is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt

Paul Sandford, landlord of the well-known Railway Tavern pub on the Yaxham Road, took his two grandsons out to collect conkers in Hoe on Saturday.

While Mr Sandford’s grand sons, Dylan Whitehair and Charles Buchan, who are both two years old, are too young to enjoy the game, seeing them gathering them up reminded Mr Sandford of his own childhood memories of playing conkers with his sister and schoolfriends.

And after realising that he rarely saw children playing the game today, Mr Sandford, who runs the Railway Tavern with his wife, Debbie, decided to host a competition at the pub.

He is hoping to find a “budding conkers champion” in the town.

Paul Sandford, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt Paul Sandford, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, is organising a conkers championship later this month. Picture: Ian Burt

The competition will be held on Friday, October 20, and include a juniors and seniors category.

It will take place during the half term holiday, giving aspiring conker champions time to get their skills up to scratch, and to collect their weapons of choice.

The pub will also provide competitors with conkers on the day, as well as awarding prizes to the junior and senior winners. Mr Sandford hopes to see the contest become an annual event.

The game of conkers has fallen out of favour among children in recent years - although reports that schools insist on children wearing goggles for playground matches is a much-misquoted old health and safety chestnut.

The Railway Tavern in Dereham, is to host a conkers championship later this month. Pictured are (L) Nathan Pearson and Chris Fuller. Picture: Ian Burt The Railway Tavern in Dereham, is to host a conkers championship later this month. Pictured are (L) Nathan Pearson and Chris Fuller. Picture: Ian Burt

But Mr Sandford is hoping that a dose of nostalgia will give the traditional activity a much-needed revival, and that taking part will encourage Dereham’s children to enjoy traditional games again.

Mr Sandford used to play conkers with friends, while he attended Swanton Morley primary school as a boy. He said: “It would be nice to think it could be reintroduced in schools in the area, as long as kids are careful.”

He added that he couldn’t remember anyone’s eyes being injured, and said that, in his day, the children only got “a few raps on the knuckles” from the swinging conkers.

While Mr Sandford’s grandsons are too young to play the game properly, he said that they are “happy to swing them around”.

He added: “It’s important to keep traditions up as well. We’re losing these games more and more. I’d like to see kids enjoying conkers in the future.”

Shoelaces, scoring, and vinegar soaking: secrets for schoolyard success

Bonkers for conkers? Or baffled by the rules of the game? Here are our handy hints:

Two players, who each have a conker threaded onto a shoelace or a piece of string, take turns hitting each others conker with their own.

The winner is the last player with an intact conker.

You must hold your conker still to give the other player a fair chance to hit it - and if you move it, then they’re allowed another go.

Conkers is scored in a numbered system. If a previously unused conker breaks another unused conker, it becomes a ‘one-er’, then a ‘two-er’, and so on.

if a ‘two-er’ is broken by a ‘one-er’ then the scores are added together, with the winner becoming a ‘three-er’.

If a ‘two-er’ or a ‘three-er’ breaks another conker with a score higher than one, then both the scores are added up.

Expert conker players are known to soak their weapons in vinegar, before baking them in the oven, to harden them up.

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