Northamptonshire's international conker championship faced with importing nuts from EU after bad crop

The World Conker Championships take place in Southwick, near Oundle
The World Conker Championships take place in Southwick, near Oundle

The annual World Conker Championship in Northamptonshire is in peril after a year of extreme weather has stumped this year's crop of chestnuts.

The international contest is faced with importing conkers from the EU because this year's harvest has produced premature, shrunken and shrivelled nuts.

Now, the committee behind the annual tournament in Southwick, near Oundle, are asking Northamptonshire's nature-lovers to pocket any big conkers they spot and donate them ahead of the festival on October 14.

Committee member St John Burkett said: "We've not only had the heatwave but one of the dullest Springs in years.

"This year's conkers are too small, they're dropping too early and there aren't as many of them. We like them very large.

"We might need some of our entrants in Germany to pocket the big conkers over there and bring them to the UK."

John says many of this year's conkers have dropped a month early and are now drying out before they can be drilled.

Chestnuts ideally need to be picked in the week before the contest or else they dry out inside.

St John said: "We need about 3,000 for the championship. We're hoping there will be enough, but we're asking local communities to help. If you spot any big conkers then please collect them and bring them to the Shuckburgh Arms in Southwick."

The championship was similarly hit in 1977 after a drought badly affected the year's conker crop.

Thousands flock to Southwick every year to watch competitors battle it out and support the charity contest for the visually impaired. It has taken place every year since 1965.