Council goes bonkers over conkers

conkersFrom Guide to Nottingham 04/10/10:

Nottingham City Council removed conkers from a horse chesnut [sic] tree on Friday for health and safety reasons.

The decision was taken by the council when a four year old girl was seriously injured after she was hit on the head by a stick, thrown by boys trying to dislodge conkers.

The removal of conkers from trees has been criticised by many as going a step too far with regards to health and safety. The Government also announced that killjoys could be forced to pay compensation if they unfairly scrap public events.

In the past, health and safety officials have also banned pancake races, school trips, and even sweets being thrown to kids during pantos because they are deemed unsafe.

Well, there’s nothing like a Murray mint chucked in your eye to get a pantomime reveller straight down to the local A&E, only to be later cossetted by a personal injury solicitor who turns up salivating at the prospect of new business.

The Government is now trying to get local councils to take a more common sense approach to such issues. If community events are scrapped unfairly, local councils could face being sued by the public. 

Lord Young said: ‘‘It has gone to such extremes. What I have seen everywhere is a complete lack of common sense. People have been living in an alternative universe.

“This sort of nonsense has come from the last government trying to create a nanny state and trying to keep everybody in cotton wool.

No cotton wool, please - potential choking hazard!!  

“Frankly, if I want to do something stupid and break my leg or neck, that’s up to me. I don’t need a council to tell me not to be an idiot. I can be an idiot all by myself.”

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that.  But I kind of get the point.

The council certainly has a duty of care to protect the public but this smacks of overkill no mater how you slice it. It’s a disproportionate and bizarre response.  A council can’t actively go around trying to rid society of every potential article which a child might stumble across in the course of playing and cause injury to themselves or others.  At least not in these times of government-enforced austerity!

By analogy, what would be the council’s response to a child getting badly stung by a bee? Would they take it into their heads to go around an area stripping it of all the flowers?  Suggest legal action against the queen bee?  Boycott buying honey in supermarkets?

Actually, I’m amazed that the previous government hadn’t passed legislation making it illegal to play conkers outside of a specially controlled environment with shed-loads of public liability insurance and with everyone with hard hats, face shields and Kevlar flak-jackets on.

Whilst it was unfortunate that a child was injured in all of this, stripping conkers from a tree just doesn’t cut it.  And besides, having a rock-hard conker clout you on the knuckles in a no-holds-barred game of conkers is an important learning phase for any child in my opinion.  It certainly was for me.  And that’s once you’ve narrowly avoided skewering your hand with something sharp trying to make a hole through it in the first place to thread your shoelace or string.


  1. “This sort of nonsense has come from the last government trying to create a nanny state and trying to keep everybody in cotton wool.'

    no it hasn't - mind you 'blame the labour government' works with all sotrts of other crap, so why not this!

    'disproportionate? bizarre response??' hardly - it's the response of a council desperate to save money by not having to fight stupid pi claims. it's mad of course, but who can blame them? especially if it works and they save money to spend on services.

    pc gone mad? almost ... how about pi?

  2. I saw this on the local news and knew people would represent the story as being a council banning people playing conkers - in fact they knocked them all down from the tree but left them on the ground for children to use. There were several local residents saying they were glad, as the location of the tree close to properties meant that kids throwing handlebars, rocks etc etc at the hanging conkers were causing local damage. This is in addition to the injuries suffered by the girl last year - who needed brain surgery.

    This is one tree, in one place, and is a storm in a tea cup. Local councils are often responsible for H&S madness, but misreporting is just as responsible for the perception people have.

  3. Everyone knows that you let the conkers drop before you collect them to get the best ones (or you use brown paint and rocks, but apparently that's "cheating").

    I'm surprised this hasn't fed into a lack-of-patience-today story somewhere too.

    Don't throw sticks at trees, basically.

  4. Well said that man!

    It seems I definitely missed a trick with the 'rocks painted brown' thing when I was kid. Maybe I just too damn honest! :-\

  5. People will tell you it's all in the wrist but I believe it's also in how you mix the concrete.


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