Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake is an annual event that takes place every Spring bank holiday at Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England. The participants run after a big cheese wheel rolling down a hill. Traditionally it was by and for the people of the village but nowadays competitors from all over the world take part in the spectacular.
According to the organizers, the grounds of Cooper’s Hill accommodate a maximum of 5,000 participants. After 15.000 visitors came to the event in 2009 the event had to be canceled due to safety concerns in the following year. Since 2011, however, the event is taking place every year again!
How the Cheese Race works
Each year, a wheel of 7-9 lb. Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down Cooper’s Hill. The initial goal of the participants is to catch the rolling cheese. However, since the cheese can reach a speed of about 70 mph (about 110 km/h) and competitors might get ahead of each other, this goal is extremely difficult to achieve. In any case, the first competitor to cross the finish line on the bottom of the hill is declared the winner.
The Roots of the Cheese Rolling Tradition
It is not entirely clear when and how this tradition originated. While some trace it back as far as ancient Roman times others say that it only dates back to the 15th century.
The Romans had established a fort on top of Cooper’s Hill and were said to send to objects down the hill. Another theory is that the cheese race evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights.
Finally, rolling bundles of burning brushwood down the hill to mark the start of the New Year after winter may be the origin of the cheese rolling tradition at Cooper’s Hill. This theory is also in line with the still existing scattering of buns, biscuits and sweets at the top of the hill. This is executed by the Master of Ceremonies as a fertility rite to encourage the fruits of harvest.
While the event initially took place on Whit Monday each year, it was later transferred to the Spring Bank Holiday.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake 2015 will take place on Monday, 25th May 2015.
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Photos by michael warren,