Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

We had to get our conkers on ebay

It's bad news for kids — Northern Ireland is suffering a shortage of conkers following chilly and torrential weather earlier in the year.

Horse chestnut trees were hit with a a shortage of insects to pollinate flowers, followed by cold and rainy weather which stopped development.

One pub was forced to turn to eBay to source conkers.

Belfast’s Cloth Ear had sent more than 25 members of staff to scour Belfast’s parks. But they returned empty-handed and the bar’s management had to buy in conkers specially.

The Woodland Trust said this has been one of the poor years for conkers.

“What has happened is that we had a very mild spring, then when the chestnuts flowered we had a late frost and that killed off the blossoms. It also affected the insects that would have pollinated them,” Woodland Trust NI director Patrick Cregg said.

The annual conker competition at the Cloth Ear went ahead despite the shortage.

The bar’s management bought conkers from an online eBay seller in England.

General manager Lisa Kennedy said: “Our conker competition has been very popular with our customers over the years, as it conjures up fond childhood memories.

“We were shocked this year when we went on our annual trip to start our conker collections to find that the trees were bereft of conkers. We are delighted that we were able to continue the tradition of playing conkers this year but are still bemused by the shortage across Northern Ireland.”

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