Cheese Rolling

Competitors take part in the Cheese Rolling event on Coopers Hill in Gloucester

Whilst the concept of cheese rolling seems incredibly ridiculous and bizarre to anyone with a right mind, the people of Gloucester, in the Cotswolds region of England, see it as a grand tradition.

The annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake takes place on the late spring bank holiday (usually the last Monday in may) on the hill it is named after. It is a race where a roll of cheese is released down the hill, and the competitors chase after it, with the winner being the one who crosses the finish line first. Traditionally, the winner must cross with the cheese in hand, though because the cheese gets a 1 second head start, it may read speeds of up to seventy miles per hour, making this a difficult (and dangerous) aim.

The cheese itself is a local Double Gloucester weighing in between 7-9 pounds. It is generally manufactured in cylindrical blocks and rolled by a wooden casing and decorated with ribbons at the start of the race. The current supplier, cheese maker Diana Smart, has supplied the cheese since 1988.

The origins of the race are unknown, though there are two theories that have emerged over the years. The first is states that it evolved from the requirement to maintain grazing rights on the common. The other says that it originates from the custom of rolling objects down the hill, for example the practice of rolling bundles of burning brushwood down the hill to represent the New Year after winter. Related to this is the scattering of buns, pastries and sweets in a ceremony that encouraged the fruits of harvest.

Since the 15th century the cheese rolling has attracted a large number of men, women and children ready to compete for the title. The even grows in popularity every year, with people traveling from all around the world to watch and participate in the event. There have been a number of controversies regarding the event, especially with safety. Minor injuries are regular, with sprained ankles being the most common. Plus broken bones and concussions also being frequent. In 2003 a woman was video taped falling down the hill, though she only sustained minor injuries.

As weird and wacky as Cheese Rolling is, I hope it continues grow in prosper in the way it has. It brings so much joy to the people of Gloucester and the visitors. Whilst it is dangerous and holds a risk, it is tradition, and that should always aim to be upheld until it proves void.


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