Apple Day & Conkers
Crisp, sunny mornings. The leaves turning red, and the satisfying crunch of them under foot. Along with warm, balmy afternoons of an “Indian summer” (the period in September when summer briefly reappears). Well at least some of the time, in between the bursts of heavy rain, muddy grass and soggy leaves!
I love autumn in London and it’s a great time to enjoy the days outside with the kids before getting cosy for winter. Whether that’s just in the local playground, out on Hampstead Heath or on top of Primrose Hill. Autumn is also a time for some very special British traditions and events celebrating the time of the harvest, Apple Day and Conker Competitions.
First of all, Apple Day on 21st October is a day to celebrate all things apple-related: the wealth of apple varieties from British orchards; traditional British ciders and juices; and of course apple crumble (a warming apple pudding with a biscuit-style topping. My recommendation: serve with hot Ambrosia custard. Mmm!). Plus of course, have some fun with games (apple bobbing, anyone?) and a fair too!
There are a couple of places to celebrate this year, including Fenton House, Hampstead, which is holding their annual celebration this weekend: Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October 11am-5pm. Pop into their beautiful walled garden and 300 year-old orchard to taste old English varieties of apples and juice from their trees. Kids will be entertained with activities such as badge-making, apple-juicing and giant lawn games.
Later on in October Kentish Town Farm, near to Gospel Oak overground, is celebrating Apple Day on Sunday 25th October, 1pm to 4pm. While you’re there check out this cute city farm which is great for kids, and supports a really good cause.
This weekend also sees the Hampstead Heath Conker Championship return (Sunday 4 October 2:30pm – 5pm Parliament Hill).
Not heard of conkers before? Ah, this is a great British childhood tradition! Conkers are the big, brown nuts which fall off the horse chestnut tree at this time of year. Kids go mad for collecting these: a great activity on the way home from school!
You can of course simply collect, swap and compare conkers (Biggest? With most bumps? Shiniest?). However, Conkers the game is usually played by 2 players, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of string (make the hole with a skewer, adults only, be very careful of hands): they take 3 turns each, striking each other's conker until one breaks!
It’s a pretty old tradition: the first recorded game of Conkers was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. It also has been played with snail shells and hazelnuts in the past.
Hampstead Heath are providing the conkers, so you can just turn up and take part. Good luck and happy conker hunting!
If apples and conkers aren’t your thing, then why not head to the top of Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House on Sunday 4th October, 12-4pm. Each month they run creative workshops for families, inspired by the paintings in the house. All activities are free so just pop in and have a go.
So there you have it, some British autumn festivities for you and your family starting this weekend. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we have some lovely, sunny weather to enjoy it all!
Victoria Rennoldson of Perfect Cuppa English was born and grew up in north west London; she currently lives in West Hampstead with her family.
She offers English language, culture and orientation programmes including walking tours to get to know the local area.