It’s almost that time of year again that we’ve all been waiting for – Gloucester’s annual Cheese-Roll. Despite numerous attempts to close down this historic event, I’m happy to say that, at least for the time being, it’s still going strong. No question, this has to be the best day out I’ve ever had so if you haven’t been yet you better get on it before it’s too late!
What on earth is cheese rolling?
It’s a simple concept. Willing participants line themselves up at the top of Cooper’s Hill next to a handmade, seven-pound circle of Double Gloucester Cheese which is let loose. The participants then run (fall) down the hill to try and catch it. The cheese is much to fast so really it is the first person to the bottom who is claimed the winner and gets to take the battered cheese home.
This bizarre event has taken place annually for over 200 years (although during the WWII rationing meant the cheese was replaced with wood).
Seeing cheese rolling for the first time
Brockworth was crammed with people on the day of the Cheese Rolling. The event now attracts over 5000 spectators and fearless participants from all over the world. As signs tell you everywhere, this event is no longer official and was technically banned in 1998 (I’m guessing they had an issue with clearing health and safety…). Thanks to a few dedicated locals the tradition is kept alive.
We followed the crowd as they meandered through fields, trees and steep inclines to a clearing in the woods called Coopers Hill. It was a long trek but we eventually arrived at the infamous spot. I couldn’t believe how steep it was. To make things worse the hill was uneven and overgrown with thorns. Why would anyone choose to throw themselves down it?!
No picture can show how steep this hill really is.
Anyone can join in the race, you just need to get yourself to the start line. A guy next to us decided to join in last minute, much to the dismay of his wife (he ended up covered in bruises, scratches and a sprained back…she was not happy).
The races begin
The race is over in seconds. A few people make it look easy but the rest trip, face plant, roll and spin out of control all the way to the bottom where there is a row of sturdy men to stop you. There are inevitable injuries like sprains, breaks and cuts and some of the more serious casualties have to be stretchered off.
I saw one of the female participant howling in tears out of shock after she had tumbled almost the full length of the hill (that’s her feet sticking out from a ditch in the hill, mid roll, in the photo below!).
It sounds horrific and it is, but as a spectator its really fun!
- Get there really early, You want to be at the race area at least and hour or more before the first midday race. You also need to add an hour to actually walk there from the car. Plus a bit extra for actually finding a parking spot.
- Grab a place towards the bottom of the hill (thats where the action is most juicy) for the best view, but make sure you can see the start line as well.
- Wear sensible shoes, you won’t make the trek to Coopers Hill if you aren’t in trainers or walking shoes
- Bring some cash for parking
- There are no food or drink stalls near the race so bring plenty with you
When: the last Monday in May (the Spring Bank Holiday). The first cheese is rolled at midday. There are 5 downhill races in total happening 20 minutes apart. In between each downhill race is an uphill race, including one for children.
Where: Brockworth, near Gloucester
If you are nuts enough to compete: To compete you must be at least 18 years of age. There is also an uphill race that children can participate in. A lot of participants in the downhill races get serious life long injuries so have a good think about it first!
For more information, check out the unofficial Cheese Rolling website.
Looking for similar whacky events? Check out these 6 crazy UK events that you should see.