In a land a long way from here grows a curious tree. Its boughs spread wide and strong, its leaves are large and green and in its branches live many creatures both plain and wonderful.
Each year in September or October, children gather under these trees avidly searching for a special treasure that can be found nowhere else; for the fruit of this tree is a spiky green ball and inside each one is a smooth brown nut - no use for the children as food, but more valuable than that - for these brown nuts are conkers.
They make a hole in the centre of these nuts and thread a string through and then battle one another for glory and to prove that their conker is stronger, harder, better prepared and more skilfully wielded than their friends' conkers.
They didn't believe me.
It's true of course.
Here is one of the horse chestnut trees I collected conkers under as a child (thanks to Google Streetview):
When we visited Audley End a week ago, we found conkers lying on the ground under a tree. Exile #4 uttered with amazement, "It was all true about the conkers!"
And yesterday, I showed them how to play.
All being well we are just arriving back in the US after a great trip. Thanks to all who shared it with us!