Don’t play with your food, they said. But whoever uttered those words has clearly never attended the annual “Cheese-Rolling and Wake” at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, UK. Think of your favourite mischievous childhood pastime of rolling down hills, the steeper the better – and just add cheese. Since the dawn of time-ish, brave locals have been chasing wheels of double cream Gloucester cheese down a steep hill for eternal glory. Have a look for yourself:
We’ve fallen bum over noggin in love with the sport. The goal is to catch the cheese – not that anyone’s ever succeeded, but that hasn’t stopped an international array of attendees from becoming fans of the sport. And honestly, why not? When your dreams are literally made of cheese, they’re worth chasing.
Flinging themselves down a near-90 degree angle, participants reach cheese speeds of 70 mph (112 km). Because that hill is steep:
Wheels weigh around 8 pounds, and begin their downhill race of about 200 yards after getting bundled up in tape and ribbon. Locals have been keeping diligent score of the event since the 1970s, but reckon it’s been going on for much longer – some trace it to the mid-1800s, others as far back as Roman Times.
Sarah Stevens has been at the organisational helm since 2010, and told reporters that one of her favourite weird origin stories for the rolling is that men used to throw themselves down the hill to “find their wife.” As one does. But in the collective heart of the town, it’s just always been there. Even during WWII rationing, when the wheel was made of wood, the show went on…
But don’t be fooled by the humble roots. The Roll has gotten pretty damn famous over the years (even Hollywood’s gossip king Perez Hilton was Instagramming about it). There were some 15,000 attendees in 2010 – way more than city organisers could host – and since then, it’s had to become an unofficial, 100% volunteer event.
Competitors can get seriously injured chasing that elusive wheel. In 1998, the event was cancelled due to a whopping 33 persons receiving serious injuries the year prior. Flo Early, who set a record for the women’s roll in 2018, dislocated her shoulder. Many of the participants are seasoned rugby players, and in fact, a line of linked rugby lads awaits contestants at the bottom so as to break the fall down. Regardless, contenders often pad-up .
Now let’s talk technique: some people roll. Some people run. Some just collapse and expand like a human Hoberman Sphere. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. “Just don’t die” is the general consensus. The 2020 competition is set to take place May 25th, which means you’ve still got time to train.
In fact, why not find a charming little B&B in the area, and make a vacation out of it with Messy Nessy’s guide to weekending in the Cotswolds?
Learn more about the event on Facebook, and check out the trailer for an upcoming 2020 movie about a young woman’s dream to chase the cheese: