I always remember this time of year when I was at school. There was a large chestnut tree in the patch of grass that the elite sixth form girls were allowed to use. As the leaves turned crisp and orange, it was the time for conkers!
If you want to know the rules in detail you can find them at the wikipedia entry linked to above. Basically you bore a hole right through the conker, and a piece of string is threaded through and a knot put it the bottom end. You take it in turns - one holds the string by the top and dangles their conker motionless, and the other person has to hit that conker with theirs. Its a skill learned early in one's playground life in England.
Even at grammar school, we young things risked life and limb entering the forbidden territory (avoiding the eyes of prefects) to get the prize specimens straight from the tree. Yes we flung hockey sticks and anything we could find to dislodge them. There is nothing so beautiful as a shiny conker fresh from its hard spiny green overcoat. The grain is as beautiful as mahogany and the smell is slightly astringent.
I was walking in my lunch hour down to the local park and picked up a magnificent one lying on the path before me. I just couldnt resist it, my first one of the year, and enjoyed smoothing my fingers over its surface. But the wonderful lustre doesnt last long, and a few days later it is like another being sitting in my desk drawer - quite dull and lifeless.
I felt moved to get my paints out for the first time in ages, but there is no way I could catch the essence of a horse chestnut. We have a horse chestnut tree in our field, planted from a seedling grown by the LLF who is good with such things. But it was persistently pruned by our hungry horse, leaning over the protective fence and it has never thrived since.
Today I read sad news of the forthcoming 42nd annual World Championships held at a small village in Northamptonshire. Undersized conkers! What a tragedy!