Flitton Potato Race – 11th June 2017 – sponsored by Isle Of Ely
This year the ladies relay race was won by the Isle of Ely Ladies Team. Captain of the ladies team and Director of Isle of Ely Claire Boutwood-Potter said “All the hard work and training has really paid off, we are delighted to win the Flitton Potato Race especially as all the profits go to charities and local projects”.
Flitton Potato Race is the only race of its kind in the country.
This race has a history which started in the mists of time; just like the stories about King Alfred burning the cakes and King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table that we might have learnt about at school, it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction.
According to the tradition, it was held at the end of the potato season before the new potatoes were lifted and provided an opportunity for the farmhands to earn some extra cash for a bit of fun. The runners would lift a hundredweight sack off the wall of the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Flitton and run a mile to the farm at the other end of Greenfield, and for the privilege they were allowed to keep the potatoes.The jury is out whether this was held before the First World War, but more definitely the race was run between the wars, and equally unknown is the reason why it did not continue after the Second World War.
It was revived in the late 1970’s by Somerset Moore, who was running The White Hart, and whilst some traditions were retained, the route was reversed in order to finish at The White Hart (no surprises there) and the weight was reduced (!) to half a hundredweight (or just over 25 kilos in today’s metric weight). Judging by the photos and the war stories of many who took part and still live in the area, it was an extremely popular event, and taken seriously, even in fancy dress.
The race again went into suspended animation, apart from a one-off in 2004, until 2010 when it was revived in its current form. The route is the full mile finishing at The White Hart and it has been opened up to all ages but with different weights; even these have been changed to comply with health and safety guidelines so the top weight is now 20 kilos – what would Health & Safety have said about the original hundredweight which is approximately 51 kilos!