Pancake fun for Winster

Winster pancake races in 1972
Winster pancake races in 1972

Pan-demonium will break out in a Derbyshire village next week – as families go flipping mad to celebrate Shrove Tuesday.

It’s that time of year again when Winster residents grab their frying pans and put their culinary acrobatics to the test for the village’s popular pancake races.

The races began in the 1950s – the brainchild of local farmer and parish councillor Horace Johnson – and has been an annual event ever since.

On Tuesday, the main street of the old lead mining village will be lined with spectators. Competitors from toddlers to pensioners will be taking part and schoolchildren will enjoy a half-day holiday.

Organiser Nicola Gilbert said weeks of preparation went in to making the event a success, including distributing posters, rallying marshals to hold ropes at the finishing lines and stopping the traffic.

Racers come ready equipped with their own frying pans and pancakes, though a few spares are made for good measure.

Nicola added: “We have a very close community in Winster and lots of things are going on. Everyone really looks forward to the pancake races and a lot of people turn out.

“It’s a fun day for the children although the men’s race can get quite competitive.”

Rumour has it the pancakes were once made to a special tough recipe to ensure they withstood the race – which used to be almost twice as long – with some competitors using oatcakes instead.

Brian Long, who has lived in the village since 1988 and helped organise many events, said: “I think it has always been so successful because of the novelty element to it. I’m not aware of any other villages that have a similar thing.

“It’s very important for these traditions to be maintained as they involve people right through the ages from small children through to veterans.”

One such veteran, who made pancake tossing a competitive sport, was Bill Slaney who was still taking part in the races in his 80s.

Mr Slaney died last year but is still remembered as the ‘king of the races’ and could often be seen competing in a wig or a beard and enjoying a stop at the pub half way down the course.

This year 13 races will take place, starting at 2pm on Tuesday, February 21.

Each competitor will receive a chocolate bar.

For Matlock’s newly-launched pancake race to be held on Tuesday, see details in this week’s Mercury, out tomorrow.