Speaking of cheese (weren’t we?), I have been made aware (THANKS, Grettir!) of what I can only say is the BEST SPORT IN THE WORLD. It is the Cheese Rolling Competition in Gloucestershire, held this year on May 29th. What is “Cheese Rolling?”

It’s Gloucestershire’s craziest event and there are plenty of daring souls who are willing to risk life and limb to chase after a big Double Gloucester cheese at Cooper’s Hill …

Punky cheese chasers.

No kidding, competitors from around the world (or at least the UK and evidently some “Kiwis” who were identified in the photo gallery) will chase down this practically VERTICAL hill after a wheel of cheese.

Of all Britain’s weird and wonderful customs and traditions, the annual cheese rolling races at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire must be among the strangest – and certainly the most spectacular.
It takes place every year on Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth in the last weekend of May, and it sees scores of men and women hurtle 200 yards down a near vertical slope in pursuit of a seven-pound Double Gloucester cheese.
Thousands more gather to watch the remarkable spectacle which has been happening almost every year for at least 200 years, and it is believed, possibly many centuries more.

Here, by the way, is bucolic, rustic, pastoral (insert peaceful, countrified adjective here) Gloucestershire (to be pronounced as it only has ONE or TWO syllables rather than four or so):
Idyllic Gloucestershire.Tranquil Gloucestershire.

And in this calm setting, age-old CHEESE-INDUCED INSANITY takes place every year in May. According to retired teacher, Jean Jefferies, who lives on the slopes of Cooper´┐Ż??s Hill and is writing a book on the history of the cheese rolling races:

It seems that originally the event took place at midsummer. At some point it was moved to Whit Monday and in 1967 it was moved again, with the bank holiday to the last Monday in May.

This year, though the day started out with pleasant weather, it RAINED (in England?????):
At least they have their bumbershoots...

As the OFFICIAL Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Website said, “Just as the first cheese was rolled, down came the rain!” Indeed – and washed the spider out…
Jack fell down...After which, ass over teakettle, came the sumo wrestling trolls. Then, naturally, the medical professionals had to be summoned.

Notice the last image (no – not the sumo wrestler people with troll hair – that’s the penultimate image – I mean the one on the far right). Those are paramedics. And they are always close at hand, because there are plenty of injuries (even if it DOESN’T rain):
Now this is SPORT! This is one of the VICTORS. Yes, he knocked himself OUT.

The two pictures on the left are from this year’s race (the second an image of one of the WINNERS), but the view on the right is of a competitor from 2004 who RENDERED HIMSELF UNCONCIOUS and had to be taken away by ambulance. This is better than rugby; there’s mud, no protective gear is utilized, there are many disfiguring accidents, AND there is CHEESE!

You’ll want to take a look at some of this year’s winners:
This bloke is WELSH - I wonder if they made him wear a leek. He closed his eyes and thought of England. He's the one who got all bunged up.

Oh, how they hold that cheese aloft with PRIDE. Here’s another winner (from 2004), who I especially like:
You GO Girl! That is, indeed, knackered.

She wins, she’s proud, and then, evidently, she’s “knackered.”

I shall now provide you with a few Cheese Rolling Facts:

  • Cheese rolling races are believed to have been held at Cooper’s Hill, near Gloucester, for hundreds of years.
  • It was already an old tradition in the early 19th century.
  • Its roots may lie in ancient fertility rites or hopes of a successful harvest.
  • Competitors chase a Double Gloucester cheese weighing 7-8lb.
  • During rationing in the Second World War the cheese was replaced by a wooden replica – still with a piece of cheese inside.
  • Cooper’s Hill has a gradient of 1 in 2 for most of its height and a precipitous 1 in 1 in places.
  • There are four downhill races, one for ladies, and uphill races for children and the really fit.
  • The downhill race start point is marked by a maypole topped by a cockerel.
  • The 2001 event was cancelled as a result of the foot and mouth crisis.
  • The 2003 event was cancelled because of an Earthquake!

To get a REAL feel for this wacky dairy sport, watch Chaotic Race 5 and the Cheese Rolling Montage. Also, check the other pictures HERE. Lastly, check out the OFFICIAL Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling site for this page about past activities connected to the “Cooper’s Hill Wake” (back to the 1800’s). My favourites are “‘grinning (through a horse’s collar) for a cake” and – I kid you not – “shin-kicking!” Now THAT must have been a good time.

Let me just leave you a picture of my most favourite Cheese Rolling fan. He is, evidently, a “regular” at the event:
I am LOVING his bonnet!