Collecting conkers for a classy seasonal display
Collecting conkers, fallen from the golden boughs of large horse-chestnut trees, bursting as they are around this time with green spiky cases with their shiny auburn seeds, has always held something of a legendary status for me. When I was younger, it seemed that anyone who was anyone went conker collecting, and the more, the plumper, the shiner you could collect, the better. Of course tradition dictates that conkers are collected, threaded on a string, and then used in a good old game of conker and string, knocking the conkers together until one breaks, the winner being he or she who’s conker remains intact the longest.
The conker game never really appealed to me, but the thrill of finding these shiny round autumn gems certainly satisfied my magpie nature. There was always a great joy to be had in hunting them down, looking amongst piles of crispy brown fallen leaves, all around the wide tree trunks, and coming across a large, plump shiny chestnut-red conker, freshly fallen from the inside of its silky white enclosure, the pure and soft antithesis of the outer thorny shell.
Even now, I love the smell of freshly fallen leaves, slowly starting to decompose in the fresh damp air and the crisp sunny mornings, the scent recalling to my mind those long autumn walks and the joy of collection and discovery, of acorns and conkers, of spiky seeds and ruby red leaves. Living so close to Clapham Common, I have a host of large trees on my doorstep. Unlike the autumns of my Sussex childhood, when my father would use his umbrella to try and pull more conkers down from the trees, such was their scarcity, now, in a single walk, I can bring in a haul of freshly fallen conkers, before the high gloss marbled brown shells have gone dull, or been pecked at my birds or squirrels.
It was one such haul which I collected for myself the other day, as has become a new more adult tradition of my later years here in London. Depending on what I find, I tend to display my collection in fruit bowls so that their lustrous glory can be reflected upon during these darkening autumn days. And this year, so impressed was I with my find, that I even filled a vase full of them too. You should try it – while they don’t last forever, they’re guaranteed to last longer than your average vase of flowers, and better still, they’re free! Try getting a few barely opened complete pods – these will take a few days to open and when they do, the fresh shine of the conker within will look especially good in your display.
I leave you with some shots of the acorns and conkers I painted as part of my Richmond Park painting last year. Happy conker hunting!
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- British conkers getting smaller as infection hits horse chestnut trees (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bonkers for conkers – and welly wanging (theglobeandmail.com)