We’re very lucky to be based in the picturesque and thriving town of Olney. With charming cottages, a weekly market and some delicious choices of cafes, it really ticks a lot of boxes. But one thing that makes this lovely little town stand out is a custom that has been running for over 600 years!
Imagine… Shrove Tuesday, 1445, the bells are just beginning to ring for the church service and one of the housewives of Olney is late, so she grabs the frying pan off the stove that she was imminently about to toss and runs out of her house, flipping as she goes! That is one of the stories that circulates about why this delightful English tradition began. And today, only women who are over 18 and have lived in Olney for over 3 months are allowed to participate!
Tuesday 9th February 2016, people are congregating around the central market square, munching on famous pancakes, practising their best tossing and securing their aprons. An announcement is made to say that the children’s races are about to start so encouraged by mums and dads and members of the pancake committee, dressed as those did when this tradition started, participants in line “and they’re off!”
As the sun starts to shine, Bertie can smell some delicious pancakes so is on a mission to track them down among the building enjoyment of the big race that starts at 11.55 am as it has every year!
The main street is cleared of people and traffic, spectators cling to the pavements and all the ladies line up gripping their frying pans firmly, everyone anticipating the ring of the bell to start this year’s race. Each one of us snapping pictures whilst the presenter is filling us in on a few stories from the past as well as chatting to current Blue Peter presenter, Barney, who was allowed to participate in this year’s race dressed in a dress and wig! The bell rings out and they’re off!
Cheering and clapping as the last of the participants, one aged over 80 years old, gallops through the crowds of people to the finish line!
What a lot of fun it was, lots of pancakes devoured (especially by Bertie!) and all just a few metres from our office! What a lovey way to spend Shrove Tuesday and join in on such an unusual custom that has stood the test of time!