Thousands of people gathered in Gloucestershire for the traditional cheese-rolling races on Cooper’s Hill. The unofficial event was organised by rebel cheese rollers, after plans for an official event were shelved in 2010.
An estimated 5,000 people turned out to watch thrill-seekers chase a 3.5kg (8lb) wheel of double Gloucester cheese down the 1:2 gradient hill. The winner of the first race, Josh Shepherd, said he was “really happy” but “doesn’t really like cheese”.
In total, four 3.5kg (8lb) and three smaller 1.5kg (3lb) cheeses are used – made by Diana Smart, 87, who has been producing them for the event for more than 25 years. Last year, in a bid to make the race safer, revellers had to chase a foam imitation of a double Gloucester 200m (656ft) down the hill at Brockworth.
But this year, the fake fromage was binned in favour of a real wheel of cheese.
The winner of the first race, unemployed Josh Shepherd, 19 – from Brockworth, Gloucester – said he was “really proud” of himself. “I’ve run quite a few times before but it is the first time I’ve won,” he said. “My tactic was to stay on my feet and go as fast as I can and roll with the flow. “But I don’t know what I’m going to do with the cheese. I don’t really like cheese unless it’s melted, cheese on toast maybe.”
The second race was won by another local man, Ryan Fairley, 24, from Brockworth, who said his tactic was “just to go”. “I didn’t do the first race this year but it’s absolutely brilliant to have won,” he said. “I also won a cheese last year.”
The women’s race was won for the third year running by Lucy Townsend, 17, from Brockworth.
The tradition dates back to at least the early 19th Century. In 2009, the official event was axed after more than 15,000 people turned up, sparking safety fears over numbers at the site. Every year since then unofficial races have been organised during the late spring bank holiday by local enthusiasts.
This year, Gloucestershire County Council closed roads up to 2.5 miles ( 4km) around the slope to keep disruption for residents to a minimum.
Thank god that the health and safety brigade have not got their way and got this “wild and wacky” tradition banned…………yes, there are injuries but in all walks of life people get injured and there never seems to be a shortage of “cheese chasers” from all around the world.