In a tradition that has been around for hundreds of years, a group of young men and women hurl themselves at full speed down an incredibly steep hill in pursuit of a rolling wheel of locally made cheese. This whacky Gloucester Cheese Rolling Festival takes place on Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, England, which is located south east of Gloucester, and it has been around since the 15th century. It can easily be reached in about 15 minutes by rental car from Gloucester.
The first one to get to the bottom of the hill or to grab the cheese is the winner – and they will get to keep the cheese. However, this event has been plagued throughout the years by serious injuries among the participants including due to the steep slope of the hill and the slippery grass.
A Dangerous Game
Every year, Gloucester Cheese Rolling festival competitors suffer from broken bones, sprains and strains and there is even a first aid station set up at the bottom of the hill. Yet, people still return year after year to run down the hill in pursuit of the cheese – the most recent event in May of 2014 had an attendance of over 5000 people. Spectators and competitors travel from all over the world including from Canada, Holland, the USA, Italy, Australia, Japan, Slovakia and many other countries.
The event consists of four downhill races that include a women’s race, followed by a mass descent of the hill as a finale.
The Famous Cheese
Ever since 1988, the famous cheese has been handmade by a cheese-maker in Churcham named Mrs. Diana Smart. She uses the milk from her herd of Holstein, Gloucester and Brown Swiss cows and she makes the entire cheese by hand, using only the traditional cheese making methods.
The Steep Hill
The hill that the cheese chasing takes place on is incredibly steep – in some sections almost vertical. It is protected from the public by fences to prevent erosion and when the race occurs the fences are carefully removed and set aside. The undergrowth on the hill is cut and flattened and it is scanned for stones and dangerous objects that might present a tripping hazard for participants.
When Does the Gloucester Cheese Rolling Festival Take Place?
This annual celebration of all things cheesy occurs at midday on the Late Spring Bank Holiday Monday. The next event will be on May the 25th, 2015. The Late Spring Bank Holiday Monday was previously the last Monday in May, but it was moved in 2012 to the first Monday in June.
The Gloucester Cheese Rolling festival will start at noon, but it is recommended to get to the hill as early as you can because the prime seating will be taken up quickly. Some of the best seats are on the slope of the hill itself alongside the racing area, where you will be able to be up close to the action.
This Gloucestershire tradition may seem a little bit cheesy, but it has many years of history and it is a very exciting and well loved part of the local culture.
If you are planning to go next year, it is best to secure your hotel accommodation in Gloucester as early as possible!