Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake Festival

gloucester cheese

A strange festival in Brockworth, England

You may have once thought that the most dangerous thing about cheese was mold… In which case, you’ve probably never been to the top of Cooper’s Hill on Crazy Monday. On the last Monday in May, a rather unusual event takes place. The principle is simple: a 3.2 kg homemade Double Gloucester cheese is released and rolled down the hill as a number of participants chase it. First one down the hill (or whoever catches the cheese) wins, and gets to keep the cheese (plain and simple). Not to mention the mud, the slippery grass, the steep incline and the number of injuries…
gloucester cheese

Flickr – ninjawil

A 200-year-old tradition (even if a wooden cheese was used during rationing after the Second World War), it’s unashamedly a cheesy event, but it attracts around 5,000 spectators every year and an international cast of competitors, with Australians and New Zealanders in first place, who do rather well.

gloucester cheese

Flickr – brizzle born and bred

The « terrain » for the event is a stretch of grass cut through the forest on Cooper Hill. The slope is sometimes vertical, and at times the incline is as much as 50%! You can chase the cheese, but this will lead to falls, rolls and tumbles down the hill, and even if you catch the cheese, it’s a whole different matter to grab it.

Here’s a video from the 2013 Festival:

Every year, competitors are injured (sprains, strains, fractures, etc.), with the death toll reaching 33 in 1997 (the police cancelled the event in 1998 in response). Yet the riders keep coming back, year after year. The competition, featuring a very particular style of cheese race, is in fact addictive. The first cheese is launched at noon, and there are a total of five races during the day, spaced 20 minutes apart. After counting down to « 3 », the cheese is launched and the runners start at « 4 » (one second after the cheese). The cheese can reach speeds of up to 100 km/h.

Here’s a video from the 2012 Festival:

If you’re not able to take part in one of the races, you can still do one or two at the end, but unofficially. Everyone does it for fun, at their own risk.

Here’s a video from the 2011 Festival:

To compete on Cooper’s Hill, you must be at least 18 years old (there are races for youngsters, but only uphill). You may also need health insurance.

For more information on the event: www.cheese-rolling.co.uk