Britain has a history of very obscure and odd traditions but none are quite as odd as Cheese Rolling. Cheese Rolling is exactly what it says on the tin, a large group of adults chasing a seven pound cheese which rolls down Cooper’s hill in Gloucestershire. Although it may not seem very dangerous, it is! There are large groups of people all chasing a block of cheese which can reach speeds of 70 mph down a steep hill. This leads to broken bones, bruises and cuts; it’s not for the feint-hearted. But, as cheese rolling fans are proud to say, there’ve never been any fatalities, and the sport goes back centuries.
According to food historian Emma Kay, the earliest records of this strange sport are 1837! This tradition dates back almost 200 years! But what makes this cheese so special? Is it the finest, most mature piece of cheese in the world worth hundreds of pounds? No, the answer is no. The piece of cheese these vast amounts of people are breaking bones over is Britain’s oldest breed, the Double Gloucester. Back in the 1700’s a block of Double Gloucester would cost around £200 in today’s money but the average price of Double Gloucester in 2023 is a mere £10. So ask yourself this, why on earth would people be putting themselves in danger over a block of cheese worth only £10?
Well there are two main reasons for this. The first being that everything tastes better when it’s free and the second being tradition. These kinds of traditions are unfortunately dying and it’s refreshing to see one, by all means a dangerous one, still going strong. I believe these classic traditions should be preserved and protected at all costs as they are engrained in the British culture.
Traditionally, the event takes place on Whit Monday, at the end of May and it’s not only for the locals, anyone can sign up. So if you’re free in May and around Gloucestershire, I’ll ask you this… would you attempt the notorious cheese rolling contest?