Are you a fan of cheese? Are you into adventure sports? Would you be willing to throw caution to the wind and chase a wheel of cheese down a hill with dozens of other participants in the name of sport and glory? If so, have we got the festival for you.
What is Cheese Rolling?
Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire is one of the most unique and celebrated events in England. It takes place every year at Cooper’s Hill, which is located about 100 miles west of London. You can be sure it’s well worth the trip. The event has been taking place for a long time. It’s hard to say exactly how long, but most sources agree that the tradition is at least 200 years old. Why would something so seemingly bizarre last this long? You really have to see it in person (or at least on YouTube) to believe it. It’s become legendary in the area. During World War II there were food rations, so instead of rolling an entire wheel, a wooden replica was made with a spot hollowed out for a tiny bit of real cheese. Apparently special permission was given by the Minister of Food! With a time honored tradition like that, how could you not want it to continue?
How big is Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire?
The race is very simple in theory. The MC drops the wheel of cheese and one second later, two dozen competitors chase it down the hill. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Cooper’s Hill is a menacing slope. The 300 meter (over 900 feet) incline is very, very steep. If it were covered in snow, it would be at least a double black diamond ski run. The surface is the opposite of smooth. It is filled with nooks and divots that can send a participant flying in any direction. Weather offers little help. Dry conditions may provide better footing, but offer a harder surface to fall onto, while wet conditions pretty much guarantee that nearly every participant will be eating some grass at some point down the hill. As you can see in the video below, it’s no surprise that sprains, strains, and broken bones are not uncommon.
Are there Prizes?
Surely with an event that puts 100% of competitors at likely risk of injury, there must be a massive purse for the winner, right? Think again. The winner gets to keep the cheese, which for the past 24 years has been made by Diana Smart, who makes the wheels of Gloucester Cheese with milk from her own herd of cows. There’s no other prize. Occasionally a sponsor might throw in a case of sports drink, but what participants are really competing for is the glory and chance to be a part of history. Kudos to these brave souls. Also, don’t think for a minute that only men compete. The women’s races are just as fierce. The official age restriction is 18, however in 2011, 14 year old Jo Guest was the winner of the women’s race! There is even a children’s race, however the little ones must actually race up the hill if they want to win, a feat which is way, way harder than it looks.
Will there be Cheese Rolling in 2012?
Spectators should also be given some credit, as it’s not uncommon for them to be injured. The 7-8 pound wheel of cheese can reach speeds of 70 miles per hour! Injuries are the main reason that there hasn’t been an “official” committee for the past few years, however that hasn’t stopped the die-hard fans of this amazing event from putting it on. In a world where so much of our sport is based on huge business and basically revolves around money, it’s refreshing to see these athletes compete for the sake of competition. If you want to check out, you can reach Cooper’s Hill via car rental in London in about 2 hours. The unofficial event will be held on Monday, June 4th in 2012. If you love competition, this is the event for you!