Marc West whisks his batter, grabs his pan and joins the competitors at the tasty Wallingford pancake race

DETERMINED by the phase of the Moon and historically marked by the ringing of church bells at 11am, the moveable feast that is Shrove Tuesday is the last blast of indulgent bliss before the start of Lent – with rich foods being sacrificed for 40 days thereafter. As such, larder essentials like eggs, flour, salt and milk – symbolising the four pillars of Christian faith – are traditionally used up making pancakes. Ingrained in British DNA as much as Easter eggs and Christmas pudding, they’re amongst the easiest and most fun food to make…and who can resist a bout of competitive tossing?

The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a Buckinghamshire housewife was so busy making the sweet treats that she forgot the time until she heard the bells ringing for the day’s service. So it’s said, she raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake – tossing it to prevent it from burning.

Such batter-based shenanigans have been traditional in our county for centuries too, and Wallingford’s own decades-old event was saved recently from a knock-out blow thanks to nearby South Moreton Boxing Club’s head coach John Houston.

This usually sleepy Thames-side town became a hive of activity on this chilly Tuesday morning as its picturesque Market Place filled with townsfolk and excited children from every surrounding school, all keen to show their support.

Competitors from eight to 80-plus, limber up on the start line with their most trusted pans in their hands, determination in their eyes, but all with big silly grins across their faces too.

Counting down to the off, they then head down St Mary’s Street and back round to (sponsors) Waitrose for as many laps as possible over a 10 minute time trial – in which they must flip their pancake at least once in front of invigilators every single lap.

Named in honour of the late great crime novelist Agatha Christie, this year’s themed event featured fancy dress characters from her best-selling books including Inspector Poirot and Mrs Li Chang Yen. The international field also featured an inflatable T-Rex, a menacing rat catcher and a gentleman dressed as a geography teacher... or, maybe he just was?

Of course, there was a certain amount of showboating from some of the tossers trying to win over the adoring crowd by making it look easy peasy lemon squeezy across the slightly slippery cobblestones. But, at the end of the day, winner doesn’t take all here – it’s really all just flippin’ good fun.

Amy Lee, dressed as KP Supergirl, proved she does indeed have super powers and writes a new chapter in the history books as the very first female champion.

She takes home the coveted Golden Frying Pan engraved with her name for posterity, but really everyone shares in the glory for simply taking part and raising much-needed funds for Wallingford Health & Wellbeing Centre. Plus, this is the only sporting endeavour I know of where the carb loading is done post-race and sugar intake comes in the form of gorgeous golden honey from local family firm Rowse, who else? Yum!