Friday 1 October 2010


Ally, ally onker
my first conker.
Quack, quack
   my first smack. 

traditional playground rhyme.  

There is a large horse chestnut tree beside the drive outside our house. It's roots have caused the driveway to dip and dive and we certainly don't park there at this time of year for fear of falling conkers. The tree, like many others throughout Europe, is afflicted with 'bleeding canker', lesions in the bark which bleed.

A horrible name and a horrible disease if it succeeds in killing this grand old tree.

October is when the World Conker Championship is held. Roald Dahl wrote that, "a great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year." But he wouldn't have been allowed to use it at the championship where there are strict rules, and certainly no conkers soaked in vinegar allowed! You are supplied with strung conkers for the matches and cannot bring your own.
There is no need to throw sticks up into the branches of our tree this year in the hopes of bringing down a prize specimen because there are plenty to choose from just lying on the ground.

Oh, the weather! Yesterday was wonderful and I spent most of the day in the garden with Himself, lopping back tall branches and stacking the garden furniture under cover in an outhouse.
Leander did a bit more meandering down the road to collect apples for the horses. (Please note that his buckets from B&Q are colour-matched to his shirt, bought in Mauritius - who says that we are sartorially challenged in this village!)

Now we have a vast amount of cuttings and debris for the bonfire. Too bad we didn't put a match to it straight away because overnight it has become disgracefully wet and windy.
The big advantage, however, is that the rain has loosened the ripe walnuts from their cases and the wind sent them thudding to the ground. It is such a miserable day that the squirrels must still be in bed. 

Hurray - I'm gathering walnuts!

Illustration copyright, Rosemary Murphy.


  1. hi rosemary.

    how interesting about the conkers. never heard of them before. and those walnuts look delicious.

    may i come live with you. things are a little ugly at the gardeners cottage.


  2. My grandparents had a huge horse chestnut tree beside their house so they're very nostalgic for me. I used to love seeing the grand clusters of flowers in the spring but being able to collect a bunch of shiny chestnuts was a much greater joy.