Page last updated at 19:15 GMT, Sunday, 11 October 2009 20:15 UK

Costume helps take conker crown

World Conker Champion Thomas Gormley
Victorious Thomas Gormley in his world champion's crown and robe

A man dressed as BBC sitcom character Rab C Nesbitt has won the top prize at the World Conker Championships, held in the Northamptonshire village of Ashton.

Thomas Gormley, 53, from Peterborough, claimed his costume and "side swipe" technique were the secrets of his success, after eight previous attempts.

Women's champion was Sue Howes, 58, from Northampton, who said her win was solely down to having the best conker.

Hundreds of competitors from 18 nations took part, many in fancy dress.

'A bit shaky'

Mr Gormley, originally from Scotland, but now living in Orton Brimbles in Peterborough, said: "This is absolutely brilliant.

"I come every year, I've come for the past eight years and I've always wanted to win it.

Sue Howes, women's World Conker Champion
As long as you hit it, you're going to win if your conker's better
Sue Howes
Women's World Conker Champion

"This year I tried a side swipe for the first time, and it seems to have worked. Maybe that's the secret.

"I think being dressed as Rab C Nesbitt helped. It gave me a bit more confidence and maybe gave me the edge."

Defending champion Ray Kellock, who won in 2008 with his "kinetic energy theory" was beaten in the semi-finals.

But female champ Mrs Howes suggested tactics were not the way to success.

She said: "There's no secret, it's just the best conker at the end of the day.

"As long as you hit it, you're going to win if your conker's better.

"Twenty two years I've been doing it and this is the first time I've won. I've got to the finals before and sometimes the semi-finals.

"I just can't believe I've won. I'm a bit shaky."

Competitors in sombreros take part in the World Conker Championships
Competitors from around the world took part in the championships

The annual contest attracted hundreds of competitors from countries as far afield as the US, Italy and New Zealand.

The event had been forced to move venues this year after it became so popular organisers needed more space, leaving behind its previous home on the village green to be staged at New Lodge Fields.

John Haddon, secretary of Ashton Conker Club, said: "We've been our own worst enemies really.

"Over the past two or three years it's got rather cramped, this is much better.

"It's great to see everybody here enjoying themselves."

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