Cheese rolling is an extreme sport that consists in rolling down the 200-yard (180 m) hill, chasing a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. This is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper’s Hill, located in Gloucester, England. Each year, there are three to four races for men and one for women.
The event has a long tradition, held by the people of the local village of Brockworth, but now people from all over the world participate. According to The Guardian, the cheese rolling race has been named a “world-famous event”, with people and winners coming from all over the world.
How does the the cheese rolling race work?
From the top of the hill, a 7–9 pounds (3–4 kilograms) round of Double Gloucester cheese gets a 1-second head start and is sent rolling down the hill. 20 competitors then start running down the hill after the cheese. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. But not everyone gets there without breaking a bone or hurting themselves. Cooper’s Hill is so steep that participants start the race sitting down instead of standing up.
Each cheese is protected for rolling by a wooden casing around the side and is decorated with ribbons at the start of the race.
What is the history behind it?
Cheese rolling is one of the oldest customs to have survived in Great Britain. It’s been going on for hundreds of years and some say it has its roots in pre-Roman times.
The first written evidence of Cheese-Rolling is found in a message written to the Gloucester town crier in 1826; even then it was apparent the event was an old tradition and is believed to be at least six hundred years old.
Two possible origins have been proposed for the ceremony. First, it may have evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common. Second, there may be pagan origins for the custom of rolling objects down the hill. It is thought that bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the hill to represent the birth of the New Year after winter. Connected with this belief is the traditional scattering of buns, biscuits, and sweets at the top of the hill by the Master of Ceremonies. This is said to be a fertility rite to encourage the fruits of the harvest.
Double Gloucester cheese
The cheese comes from the Gloucester cows, Britain’s oldest breed. Double Gloucester has a plush mouthfeel from full fat. It’s aged for 6 months, and is less tangy than cheddar, with a more round and buttery flavor. The cheese has a golden glow from annatto seeds and a slightly crumbly texture — until it meets heat, at which point it melts into gooey greatness. Single Gloucester is made with both whole milk and skim and is lighter, but it’s no Double Gloucester.
Back in the 1700s, Double Gloucester was so prized, a wheel cost the equivalent of $240 today. Double Gloucester is a far more affordable treat now, ranging from $10 to $12 a pound.
When is the event held?
The event takes place on Whit Monday, at the end of May, on the Spring Bank Holiday. This year´s race will take place on the 29th of May.
How fast can the cheese roll?
The cheese can reach speeds of up to 70 mph (112 km).
What are the safety measurements?
The cheese rolling race is not as safe as you think. Due to the steepness and uneven surface of Cooper’s Hill, there are usually a number of injuries each year. Bruises, sprains, and broken bones are common. A first aid service is provided at the bottom of the hill, together with the members of the local rugby club, acting as “catchers” for any participants who lose their balance.
Who has won in most of the Cheese-Rolling races?
From the men´s race, Chris Anderson has won more cheese races than anyone else, winning his 22nd race in 2018. Anderson is from Brockworth and he first competed in 2004 at the age of 17, placing second. He won his first race in 2005 and beat the record. In total, Anderson has won 22 races.
Florence Early, from Stroud, first ran the race when she was 17 and is the 4-time champion of the Ladies’ cheese rolling race.