The end of a nuts year for Harrogate’s conkering hero
Harrogate woman Sophie Knox found herself at the centre of media frenzy after unexpectedly becoming the World Conker Champion. Sophie and a friend entered the World Conker Championships last year as a joke, and after battling the finest competitors in the world of horse chestnut seed whacking, found that she had won.
“We wanted to do something different. We thought about cheese-rolling and pea-shooting. But the conker competition was closest. So off we went. And won!”
Like most serious world championships the conker competition’s dress code was fancy dress, so Sophie and conkers co-combatant Natasha Naylor, from York, went as the Pink Panther and Bugs Bunny. But it seemed she underestimated just how keen on conkers some people were.
“We turned up ready for a fun day but everybody was wearing tweed and wellies,” Sophie said. “It was a nightmare. They were all taking it really seriously.”
So never having played before, Sophie found herself on stage facing the world’s best, or at least keenest.
“That was my first ever game of conkers,” she said. “I just kept winning and soon they were all knocked out.”
She remained modest though, despite the result:
“I don’t think you can call it a natural talent. It was more luck. And it was definitely a surprise.”
And then with the world’s greatest conkers champions defeated, Sophie had to face the world media.
“There was a guy from The Independent waiting to interview me, Chris Evans, The Guardian,” she said.
“I had a friend in Australia call me up to say I was on breakfast TV. I was even on telly in Japan. It’s been a mad year.”
Sadly on Sunday 19 October Sophie’s reign as World Champion came to an end, at this year’s competition in Northamptonshire.
“I got a crack in my nut,” she said. “It was a bad seed. It was battered off the string at sudden death.”
The end of Sophie’s tournament and supremacy in the conkers world came, perhaps fittingly:
“I was knocked out in the first round. And I lost to a man dressed as a bumble-bee.”