Whilst Cheltenham in Gloucestershire is famous for its horse racing festivals, there’s another traditional festival which is a little more quirky and unusual. It’s held annually on the May Spring Bank Holiday at Coopers Hill, just on the edge of Gloucester by Birdlip and Brockworth, and is known as Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling. I couldn’t not share this event with you on my travel blog as I can see it happening from my garden. We live right next to this event and it’s crazy!
A 9 pound round cheese is set rolling down the hill and there are various races such as men’s and women’s to chase the cheese down the hill and try to catch it. The first over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the race and the cheese!
It’s absolutely crazy as the hill is practically vertical. It’s so steep that the competitors literally tumble down. There is usually a local rugby team at the bottom to catch the participants and paramedics are on standby. Even the cheese has injured crowd members before as it hurtles down the hill at speeds of up to 70mph!
I’ve been to see the event once in 2009 and now I witness it from my house. We can see the cheese rolling part of the hill in the distance from our back garden. I’d perhaps try the uphill race, but I would never try the downhill race unless I fancied a few broken bones.
Here are some of my images from 2009. This was the year it went crazy and people came from all over the world, probably thanks to the internet. We couldn’t get anywhere near and were in a field far below:
Crazy people! You can see the tumbling down!
The cheese rolling has been said to be world famous and people come from all over the world to take part. Sometimes famous people give it a go too – in 2017 Ben Fogle chased the cheese and apparently said he would never do it again. Once is enough!
I’ve always known of the event as I’ve always lived in Gloucestershire, but how it came about is a mystery. No one really knows and there are lots of rumours. The rumour I have heard the most is that rich people rolled cheese down the hill and watched on as poor people who were desperately hungry chased it, as a sort of twisted entertainment. Whether that’s true or now I don’t know, but the event has been going on for a very long time. According to Wikipedia the first record of it is in a letter dated 1826.
If you are planning on attending then my advice would be to arrive very early. I only went to the hill itself to watch in 2009 and I couldn’t get anywhere near, though I had a good view from a field not too far away. Luckily I watch from my house now with some binoculars! Sometimes police block off roads and often local farmers offer parking in their fields for a fee, but parking elsewhere and walking or getting a bus to as near as possible is a better idea.
The event is free and held once a year on the last bank holiday in May. It’s bizarre and definitely worth a visit once to experience the madness and to see just how steep the hill is in real life!
If you want a taste of the madness then this is a great video on YouTube of a 2017 race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK1j06Gjp94&feature=youtu.be
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