Monday, 26 May 2008

Cheese Rolling

On Sunday we headed out to Glochester for the annual Cheese Rolling Festival.

With a disputed history dating back to at least the 1800s, the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake involves hordes of fearless competitors chasing a weighty 8lb Double Gloucester cheese down a death-defyingly-steep hill. The slope on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, the eponymous setting for the world-famous event, is in fact so steep that few contenders manage to even stay on their feet, instead tumbling head over heels down the hill in a desperate effort to catch the coveted prize.

While in reality the cheese can never actually be caught – with a brief headstart it soon reaches breakneck speeds – the race winner is the first person to cross the line at the bottom of the hill. Some contenders sadly don’t make it all the way down though, and instead lie in wait for the St John Ambulance crew who are on hand to fix-up the daredevils or whisk them away to the local A&E.

The highest injury toll in recent years occurred in 1997 when 33 competitors were treated for everything from splinters to broken bones, and in 2005 races were apparently delayed as ambulances delivered victims to the local hospital before returning to wait for the next batch of casualties. Spectators have also be known to receive their fair share of injuries – one year an off-course cheese took out an innocent bystander – but you can rest assured that such occurrences are rare.

It was a cold, wet, miserable, muddy day but we still made the effort. After getting an average possie on the hill it was exciting when the first race finally started. Now, you can't understand from the photo how steep this hill actually is, the hill is on about a 45 degree angle and as stated above, people run down it after a roll of cheese and many of them don't stay on their feet. The first winner of the day had to actually be taken away by a stretcher!

It was fun to watch (what you could see) and a crazy tradition! Was nice to get back into the warm car though and heat/dry off.

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