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World Conker Championship 'king' and 'queen' crowned

media captionJohn Riley was crowned "King Conker" and Julie Freeman was crowned "Queen Conker"

An 85-year-old Chelsea Pensioner who has not played conkers for 70 years has been crowned "conker king" at the World Conker Championships 2017.

John Riley's "conker queen" was animal charity owner Julie Freeman, 45, from Rutland, who won the women's heats.

After they were crowned, they had a final fight, which Ms Freeman won.

Thousands of conker fans descended on the village of Southwick in Northamptonshire to watch the 230 competitors from 14 countries.

Competitors - who came from as far as New Zealand, the US and Russia - took part in single and group heats throughout the day.

Men's champion Mr Riley was one of six Chelsea Pensioners who turned up this year, suitably robed in crimson uniforms.

image captionA group of six Chelsea Pensioners turned up this year
image copyrightPA
image captionCharmaine Coleman, 84, took on "Musketeer" Leon Walton in the early rounds

Mr Riley served in Korea in the 1950s and said he had not played conkers since he was a boy.

image captionMr Riley served in Korea in the 1950s

However, he conquered the opposition and triumphed, only to be outdone at the very end by "conker queen" Ms Freeman, who came out fighting in a dog costume, chosen because of the charity she runs - The Mutt's Nutts - which helps elderly people look after their pets.

image captionThe pair played a final game, which Ms Freeman won
image captionIt was smiles all round as they were crowned

Since it began in 1965, the event has raised about £415,000 for charities for the blind and partially-sighted. This year's competition was almost scuppered after a "terrible shortage" of conkers.

They had fallen too early, organiser St.John Burkett said.

It had been a "last-minute battle" to scrape together the 3,000 good-quality conkers needed for the eager participants.

image captionMany teams turn up in fancy dress

Official rules

Conkers are provided for each game and cannot be tampered with or reused

  • There must be at least 20cm (8in) of lace between knuckle and nut
  • Each player takes three alternate strikes at their opponent's conker, with a game decided once one of the conkers is smashed
  • If a game lasts for more than five minutes it is halted and each player will be allowed a further nine strikes
  • If neither conker is smashed then the winner will be the player who hit the nut the most times during this period

Related Topics

  • Peterborough
  • Chelsea pensioners
  • Oundle

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