Gloucestershire

Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling, Gloucester

One of the wackiest traditions in the UK, Gloucester’s annual cheese rolling event takes place on Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth. An event so daring and so dangerous it almost can’t brie true, this extreme sport has been taking place for centuries and involves one 600ft hill, one 8lb cheese and countless competitors hurtling and tumbling their way to glory.

Officially an extreme sport, Gloucestershire’s annual cheese rolling tradition combines high speeds, steep gradients and delicious, free-wheeling cheese for an event that is every bit as bonkers as it sounds. Usually taking place on the last bank holiday in May each year, it is one of the UK’s most infamous events and one that has unsurprisingly gained itself international attention, not just from galled health and safety officers but from keen participants and wide-eyed onlookers alike. 

What is Gloucester’s Cheese Rolling Tradition?

Gloucester’s cheese rolling is an annual tradition that takes place on the 600ft Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth each year. During the event, an 8lb Double Gloucester cheese wheel wrapped in a ribbon-clad wooden casing is released at the top of the hill and sent bouncing and flying towards the bottom – hotly pursued by countless competitors. While the breakneck speeds of the freewheeling cheese mean it can never actually be caught, the first person to reach the bottom of the hill and cross the finish line is crowned victor. One of the area’s most widely anticipated events, the event draws dare devils of all ages looking to catch the runaway wheel and claim their cheesy prize.

When Did Cheese Rolling on Cooper’s Hill Begin?

The exact origins of Gloucestershire’s cheese rolling traditions are unclear, though it’s one of the area’s most famous (and infamous events). The first recorded evidence comes in the form of a letter written to the Gloucester Town Crier in 1826. From the letter, it’s clear that the tradition was already a well-established event even then, and some people believe that it had already been around for centuries at this point. In fact, some think that the event was originally about winning grazing rights on the land around Cooper's Hill, while others suggest it may have been a fertility ritual. Either way, it’s possible that the incurred injuries would have been a little counterproductive.

Who Can Take Part in Cheese Rolling in Gloucester?

Originally, the cheese rolling on Cooper’s Hill would have been a very small affair only undertaken by locals. These days though, anybody can take part in Gloucestershire’s cheese rolling event, making it a tempting proposition for daredevils and adrenaline junkies from across the world. Over the course of the race day, there are several races (all free to enter) divided into women’s and men’s categories. With participants all competing in the same 200-yard dash down the precipitous hill, the only prerequisite is nerves of steel. Given its nature, children aren’t allowed to compete in the downhill race, but there is an uphill race for little ones looking to take part.

Is Cheese Rolling Dangerous?

With the breakneck speeds of the race’s cheese (up to 70mph) and the near vertical slope of Cooper’s Hill (a 1:2 gradient on average), it’s fair to say that Gloucester’s cheese rolling race has very real risks. An official extreme sport, it regularly sees competitors lose their footing on their downhill descent and slip, bounce and tumble their way to the bottom. So frequent are the injuries incurred that medics await on scene and volunteer ‘catchers’ are hired to try and steady the fall of whirling racers pin-balling their way downhill. Sadly, many competitors become injured during the race – with the highest injury toll recorded in 1997 with 33 competitors needing treatment. 

When Does the Cheese Rolling Race Take Place?

Usually, the cheese rolling race near Brockworth in Gloucestershire takes place on the last Monday in May during the second May Bank Holiday. That said, there are sometimes variations and you can keep up to date with plans on the official cheese rolling Facebook page. If you’d like to watch the race from the comfort of your luxury cottage in Gloucestershire, you can also catch footage on the Netflix documentary We Are the Champions.

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