Hundreds go nuts for Peckham’s conker championships

Hundreds of people took part in Peckham Conker Club’s annual conker championships last weekend, competing to win the ‘golden-nut’ and reigniting a love for the old childhood game.

Peckham Conker Club put on their third annual event on Saturday 7 October behind Brick House Brewery following the autumnal conker drop, in which adults and children of all ages, players new and old, came armed with a conker and a shoestring.

The arches by Peckham Rye station were transformed into a conker battleground for over four hours with high spirited and competitive rounds of conkers taking place.

This year’s event drew the biggest crowds yet, club founder Chris Quigley, 45, said. 

Some players picked their nuts from the horse chestnut trees on Peckham Rye Common while others had been ageing them since last year’s event. 

Peckham Conker Club plays according to ‘Battle Royale Rules’ and players are encouraged to age or dry their nuts for stronger durability, incorporate special moves like ‘stampsies’ or decorate their conkers: ‘nut pimping’.

FIGHTING TO CONKER: People of all ages came down to play the old playground game

By the end of the day the ground was strewed with broken conkers and dreams.

Players’ knuckles bled, arms were bruised and spectators’ throats were sore from cheering. 

But spirits were high, particularly for winning conkerer and first-time player Pietro ‘The Stamper’ Piantanida.

Piantanida, 29, from Milan, won the ‘golden nut’ after a fierce final against Finn from Stockwell.

“I’ve been living in London for five years and never experienced this,” Piantanida said.

“I did not know what conkers were before today. 

“It was amazing, so fun, but I had no idea I was going to win.”

THE ITALIAN CONKERER: Petro Piantanida fought a fierce battle for the golden nut

Piantanida won over the lively crowd, fueled on Brick House Brewery beer, following a controversial semi-final which saw last year’s winner Harry ‘Hardnut’ Phillips’ conker get smashed to pieces by Piantanida’s stamping technique.

The tense game saw the Italian come away with a bloody mouth and chipped teeth when the two men latched together attempting to break the other’s conker.

“It was tough but I must say that my conker survived; it’s pretty badass. I think we will frame it,” he said.

Hundreds gather in Peckham at the annual conker championships
NUTS FOR THE GAME: This year’s crowds were the biggest yet at Peckham Rye arches

Quigley started the Peckham Conker Club in 2017 after playing the game with friends at The Montpelier on Choumert Road.

It was after the pandemic in 2021 that they decided to organise an official event and each year more people have attended.

Although conkers is regarded as a playground game, Quigley explained that it is better suited for adults. 

He said: “Conkers is actually more fun when you’re older.”

“The aim is to smash the other person’s conker; you have to be strong and have good hand-eye coordination.” 

CATS AND NUTS: Peckham resident Chris Quigley has organised the autumnal games since 2021

Quigley, who has an advertising and filmmaking background, acknowledged the quirkiness of the game, describing it as “very self-selected”.

“Everyone has nostalgia and a story about conkers from their childhood,” he said.

The old-school game acts as a marker of autumn with conkers traditionally falling in late September and October from horse chestnut trees.

Juliette ‘Conkertrix’ Salzmann, 25, picked her conkers from the New Forest, a national park in Hampshire, a few weeks ago. 

“They are a little bit aged; older is better,” she said.

She came up from Brighton with friends to participate for the second year, and won four games to reach the quarter finals.

SCRATCHED BUT STILL SMILING: Juliette Salzmann was knocked out of the quarter finals

“I like to bring the string around, then rip and basically turn around and use force and try to go for the pull,” she said.

“At some point, one of the conkers lets go, and you have to figure out if it’s theirs or yours.”

Salzmann, who works in cyber security recruitment, said she enjoys the competitive spirit of the game.

She said: “I have two brothers and we’re super competitive with each other and I find this here which I really like. 

“Everyone is super nice, it’s a cool community.”

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