For the love of Cheese

If you’re stuck for something to do next late May spring Bank Holiday but don’t want the run of mill type sports like Golf or Football then the Village of Brockworth in Gloucestershire might have the answer for you.  It is especially relevant if you like cheese as that is the main prize. All you must do is catch it. It is, however, rolling down a 1 in 3 gradient hill at the time.

At Coopers Hill, just outside of Gloucester, an annual tradition occurs. This is the Cheese rolling. A 9 pound Double Gloucester Cheese is released down the steep Hill and some brave or foolhardy Men and Women pursue it in the hopes of catching and winning it. The cheese gets a head start and has distinct advantage over its human pursuers as it can happy reach speeds of over 70 miles per hour and, crucially, not feel pain. The cheese is reinforced with a wooden casing round it’s edge and has lovely ribbons adorning it so that you can catch sight of it for a few brief seconds before you go head over heels. This high-speed tumbling event may not be thrilling enough or perhaps to exposed for those who enjoy a good tank driving experience.  Although perhaps driving one on road is not the best of ideas as an article on ‘Into the Blue’ explains. Better to stick to working with the professionals like those at

Back to the cheese, this dairy based missile has now been replaced with a foam replica as it can cause serious injury to the spectators at the bottom of the hill! Luckily members of St Johns ambulance are, usually, on standby to scoop up the hurt and dislocated. The A&E departments in Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General are certainly posed for a sharp spike in the waiting times that afternoon and evening.  The rolling is not managed by any group it’s just an ad hoc event that’s free for whomever turns up. The local council has disowned it and if there were any controls then you feel that in this “blame there’s a claim” age the organisers would be hard pushed to get insurance cover.

How this all started is, like so many other British Spring time traditions surrounded in mystery. Some believe that is to do with a requirement to maintain common grazing land, so much so that on years when the race has not been run a single cheese is still released for traditions sake.  The other suggestion is that it has some Pagan ritual origin, and for pagan ritual read “we don’t really know”, as the starter of the race or Master of Ceremonies as they are called, throws sweet goods like cake and biscuits around the top of the hill first. This is a variation of the fertility rite to bless crops and promote the ancient spirits, so they might help to provide a fruitful harvest come summers end.

The event has taken on international status resulting in people come from all over the world to compete. It’s reassuring that people whatever their nationality are quite prepared to risk life and limb for a bit of Double Gloucester and the chance to fall off the Cotswold hills.

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