Gloucester, England: Cheese Rolling is an annual event held at the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper’s Hill. Cooper’s Hill is one of the oldest customs that has survived in Great Britain. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, and some say it has its roots in ancient Roman times. Who used to have a fort on Cooper’s Hill and are credited as the first people to send objects hurtling down its steep slope.
The practice is believed to have roots in pagan rituals. It is thought that bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the Hill to represent the birth of the New Year after winter. Although the origin of the competition has yet to be established, it is believed that it may have started 600 years back; the first written record goes back to 1826. Gloucester is well known for its traditional semi-hard cheese, made since the 16th century.
Cooper’s Hill was something akin to a Roman coliseum as the crowd began eagerly chanting ‘Roll that Cheese’ and baying for the first race to get underway.
One could sense the excitement as the ‘Gladiators‘ lined up at the top of the Hill, awaiting the signal from the master of ceremonies.
The lure of participating in what could be called Gloucestershire’s most extreme ‘sport’ can be attributed to the absolute adrenaline thrill of taking on such a steep and treacherous incline.
Some people win, some merely finish, and many get injured – several broken bones, sprains and minor injuries – but all look back on the cheese-rolling experience with fond memories. It is a risk worth taking for all participating in this potentially dangerous race.
Cheese rolling is a tradition rooted in the country’s ancient history – representing the British identity.