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How to be a conkerer this autumn, according to Hampstead Heath’s conkermeister

Paul Maskell, conkermeister
David Tett

Want to conker all comers this autumn? Here’s some expert advice from Paul Maskell, conkermeister at the annual Hampstead Heath Conker Championship.

Be prepared

‘We do provide conkers, but we also allow people to come with their own cherished ones, and there are a number of traditional methods of hardening your nut. One of those is vinegar, which is a good way of doing it. Another one is baking the conker. The other thing that’s crucial is longevity: pick your conker now, bring it along in a year’s time to the 2018 Championships, and you should have a very hard nut.’

Size matters

‘I think the best conker isn’t an over-large one. When you’ve got too big a conker, there’s more of it to break, so you want something medium-sized with a hard exterior.’

Get in the swing

‘Hold the conker between two fingers – that gives it stability – and then bring it back and unleash. A sidewards stance gives more leverage into your arm as it follows through. You’re going for a generous hit, but try not to swing too much: you’ll either miss or get your conker tangled with the other one, which is called “stringsies”.’

Play to win

‘You need to look into the whites of the opponent’s eyes. Put the fear into them, and they’ll think you’ve got a fantastic conker.’

Find out more about this year’s Hampstead Heath Conker Championship.

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