Being a Dutchman I cannot deny being a huge fan of cheese. A good morning for me starts off with a delightful sandwich with(of course) cheese, and (how patriotic can it get) I am a huge fan of especially Dutch cheese. In fact I was almost certain that we Dutch invented cheese, but after a wiki reality check, I now sincerely doubt that.
While the primary function of cheese is eating it, in some countries they use it for entirely different purposes. In Gloucestershire, England they like to ‘roll’ with it, as they have a long tradition in the fine sports art of: Cheese Rolling.
The history of this event goes back to 1812. An it is believed that it originated from a pagan tradition of rolling objective down Cooper’s Hill, which is near Gloucester in England.
What started out as a local tradition, is now a world famous event, with contestants from all over the globe. Every year on the Spring Bank Holiday, people travel down to Gloucestershire, to either witness or participate in this rather extraordinary event.
The rules of the game are actually quite simple. A nine pound weighting Double Gloucester cheese is being rolled from the top of Cooper’s Hill, and the contestants have to chase it down to the bottom. The first person that makes it to the finish line will be crowned as the winner of the event.
For most of the contestants, the day starts of in the Cheese Rollers pub in Shurdington, which is not that far away from Cooper’s Hill.
After absorbing a healthy dose of Dutch Courage by drinking a pint or two (or something stronger if needed), the caravan will then move towards Cooper’s Hill.
The event kicks-off at 12 pm. The Master of the Ceremony will start the race by saying:
‘One to be ready, two to be steady, three to prepare (at which point the cheese is released), and four to be off.’
The contestants will then storm down the hill to reach it to the finish line, which can be a very bumpy ride, given the fact that terrain is very challenging and the competition is ready to body-check you at any time.
Originally the aim of the game was to catch the cheese, but as you probably can imagine, a nine pound cheese will start to gain quite some speed, making it a difficult but also very dangerous to catch it. After a series of accidents with spectators it was decides a few years ago to remove the ‘cheese catching element’ from the game and to replace the cheese with a foam replica.
There are 4 races during the day: 3 for the man and 1 for the ladies: The price that you can win is…. of course a piece of cheese.
Every sport has it legends, and this also applies to Cheese Rolling. 30 Years old Chris Anderson has earned his spot in the ‘hall of cheese’ bagging 21 Double Gloucester cheeses over the past 14 years; an absolute record.
If you want to participate in this cheesy event next year, make sure that you arrive on time at the top of the hill and talk to the organizers. But be aware that you will be in for a bumpy race and you’ll be participating at your own risk. Nevertheless, Cheese Rolling would fit nicely on anyones bucket list!