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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.

Off on our conker search (that’s us in the shadows!)

Our conker haul!

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.

A shiny conker bursting from its shell

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.

Displayed in our fruit bowl

Mixing other autumn seeds into the mix

My vase 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!

Conkers as featured in my painting of Richmond Park last year

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


6 Comments Post a comment
  1. My sister, the neighborhood kids and I spent hours and hours climbing the chestnut tree in our backyard when we were young and agile. Now I have black walnuts from the tree in the woods behind my house. Alas! no more climbing trees.

    October 10, 2012
    • Ah what we could do when we were younger – I get dizzy just when I bend down to pick the conkers up! Worth it though 🙂 Hope you’re well.

      October 10, 2012
  2. petit4chocolatier #

    Beautiful pictures of the acorns and your artwork really captured them in a surreal fashion that you are so good at! Brought back good memories! Thank you for sharing.

    October 10, 2012
  3. chestnut!!! i love it..

    October 11, 2012
  4. I love Autumn! Autumn and Spring are the best seasons. There is always a feeling of real change in the air during those times. Perhaps it’s simply because the weather is changing so much from the preceding seasons. When I was little I used to imagine that during these times of the year great things would happen. I would wander through the apple orchard and pretend that I was fighting enormous dragons or climb a tree and wait for my prince to rescue me. Yeah, there’s just something about the fresh smelling air that makes everything seem possible.

    October 11, 2012
    • It’s funny isn’t it how these smells automatically take us back to our childhood – your memory is so beautifully described I could almost be there. Those times of widened imaginations connected with new daily discoveries were the richest times of life. I give thanks to the seasonal variations I encountered in my childhood, because those memories have built the foundations of my happiness during each year I spend as an adult. Thanks a lot for stopping by!

      October 12, 2012

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