Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill: The Ultimate Quirky Extreme Sport Chris Thomas, a film director from London created a short film of this eccentric tradition to celebrate the spirit of the cheese. Oli Russell-Cowan chatted with Chris about how the film idea came about. In their conversation Chris dives deep on his experience rolling down […]Cheese Rolling 2021 Coopers Hill, Gloucester, United Kingdom Gloucester United Kingdom
Chris Thomas, a film director from London created a short film of this eccentric tradition to celebrate the spirit of the cheese. Oli Russell-Cowan chatted with Chris about how the film idea came about. In their conversation Chris dives deep on his experience rolling down this incredibly steep hill and how much this event means to the community around Brockworth.
Chris Thomas participated in the 2016 Cheese Rolling event and the idea was born to create a film about this quirky event. The main actress is a teenager participating in the Cheese Roll against her mother’s will.
“My dad doesn’t mind me doing the cheese roll, but my mom has a real problem with it. And this is the reason I can’t tell her that I’m here.”
Watch the Let’s Roll short film here:
The film has been featured at numerous BAFTA and BIFA film festivals including the BFI Film Festival and 2019’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Cheese Rolling 2020 has been canceled. See you in 2021!
Cheese Rolling is considered one of the 7 of the world’s most bizarre ‘Feats of Strength’ events. Each May, thousands will gather around Cooper’s Hill in the south west region of England known as Gloucestershire. The hill itself isn’t what brings tourists from around the world, rather the athletes who attempt to conquer it.
Upwards of 40 contests annually attempt to chase a rolling cheese wheel down the hill for what may be the strangest competition in the history of mankind. However, the rich tradition dates back several hundred years validating the race as a world-famous event. The legacy lives on without a conclusive origin, yet many attest that it spawned during the early 1800s to celebrate the turn of winter and a fresh batch of crops.
At the very top of Cooper’s Hill, the master of Ceremonies will release a nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese which can take on speeds of over 70 miles an hour. The first runner to get to the bottom of the hill wins the contest and a whole lot of cheese, literally.
Unfortunately, the Cheese Rolling event is by no means a safe competition. If you decide you are crazy enough to compete, make sure you don’t bruise or cry easily. Dozens are injured every year as contestants attempting to make it down the hill are often hospitalized.
“Weird but absolutely brilliant if you ask me.”
England is renowned all over the world over for its quirky antics and traditions; none more so than an annual event focused on Cheese. Yes, cheese! – and the sport of rolling it down a steep arse hill in the middle of the countryside.
We had known about Cheese Rolling for some time and had seen many videos of people tumbling down a hill in England running full belt and then suddenly being out of control. The festival itself is relatively informal. There is a sausage sizzle, an ice cream van, donation gifts as well as some entertainment for the young and old.
Make sure to get to the hill extra early to grab a spot on the sidelines. The best seats in the house are actually at the bottom of the hill where you can see the entire field. As it gets very crowded people extend to the field further down. Take a picnic and enjoy the fun without the crowds.
England’s weather can be unpredictable. Prepare yourself for a sunny morning or a rainy day. The hill is about a mile walk to the event across a field. Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes for walking across a field, up the hill and through the crowds. We scrambled through the fields and trees past stinging nettles.
There is no shelter. If it rains make sure to have some waterproof clothing and sunscreen if the sun comes out.
Pack your sunnies and some sunscreen in case it’s a nice day. Don’t forget an umbrella or rain jacket if it’s raining. The event gets very crowded and if you want to take photos or videos take an extendable selfie stick or go pro holder to film above the crowd.
Cheese Rolling is a free event. It is run by the local community of Brockworth.
The crowd gets restless for the race to start and chants of ‘Cheese, Cheese, Cheese’ are echoing around the stadium for the Olympics of cheese rolling. At the bottom, one of the race officials screams out ‘are you ready’ to the applause of the competitors at the top of the hill and all the spectators started cheering.
The siren goes and then the Double Gloucester Cheese which happens to weigh 3kg, is sent hurtling down the hill; crazed by lunatics. Standing on the side of the hill, you get to feel how steep this bugger is and it’s no wonder the Cheese picks up some serious speed as it tumbles down to the bottom! There is no way in hell the competitors can stay on their feet and the best thing to do is to embrace the falls and just roll with it.
The past champion, Chris Anderson, who has won the event multiple times, was not competing in 2019. The runner up local lad Max McDougall from Brockwell, won the race for the first time. Max knocked himself out in 2o18 so last year’s race went a lot smoother.
It’s not only the downhill. The event also sees an uphill challenge. Racing from the bottom of Cooper Hill to the top. There is also a kid’s uphill race for any kids aged 12 and older. It is a real family event!
The Women’s downhill event was won in 2019 by past champion Flo Early. I’d seen some videos of Flo taking the win in 2018 and thought that this had to be it after also winning in 2008 and 2016. But she had an awesome race and won the Double Gloucester cheese for the fourth time!
The 2019 final men’s downhill race of the day was won by 21-year-old Mark Kit; all the way from Canada. He said he’d watched videos of Cheese rolling when he was a kid and said that this is the craziest thing ever and had to go to England and do it.
As you can imagine, the first aid station and an ambulance are always close by. A couple always have to be stretched off. Previously even one of the organisers of the event ended up in the hospital’s A&E department, with injuries to her foot after attempting to stop the rolling cheese at full speed!
After the main races have finished, it’s the public’s turn to give the hill a go. ‘Now come the idiots’, we heard being yelled from behind me. There is no cheese to chase but if you are game enough you can roll (or throw) yourself down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill, instead of having some kind of soft barricade or hay bales, there is the local Brockworth Rugby team waiting for you. They definitely stopped to see the runners and got in some tackling practice, which was hilarious to watch.
Get there early: The crowd at the bottom of the hill and around the sides is pretty packed. The first race starts at 12 and you need to be there way before to get a decent viewing spot. It is recommended to arrive at 10 am so your best bet is to go early.
Wear good walking shoes: The walk from Brockworth is just over a mile to the event, but the route cuts through the fields. It is recommended to wear sturdy and comfortable walking shoes for the journey there and back, as well as throughout the day to keep your feet protected in the crowd (and from wild rolling wheels of cheese!).
Bring water and snacks: With the event running throughout the day, it’s a good idea to bring snacks to avoid leaving your spot to go looking for food. Water is also definitely recommended as the weather can get quite hot during the event after the walk up to Cooper’s Hill.
Donate to the Community: Cheese Rolling is a FREE event for anyone to come and watch. The event is run by the local community of Brockworth and to keep it going you should support the community and give whatever you can. They had a few donation gifts and some sweets for kids, as well as a fundraising event supported by Tesco, earlier this year.
This is all for a good cause and all profits go towards maintaining the hill and the run, so the event can be carried out safely each year.
The Cheese Rolling event has been running for almost 200 years. Does it go back even further to the Romans who have been seen chasing things down the hill? Or does it go back to the pagan rituals? No one really knows. Official and unofficial versions have been held for years.
As 33 people got injured in 1997 the 1998 event got canceled. The same happened again in 2010. The event got canceled which caused a major uproar. Since then the event has been running with more safety precaution for onlookers but it wouldn’t be the same event if none of the participants get injured.
Make sure to explore the beautiful countryside in this region of England before and after the Cheese Rolling competition. Take a tour of ancient museums or travel over the beautiful rolling hills and discover medieval churches and villages. Explore the Forest of Dean where you can bicycle or walk on nature’s most serene paths.
Although the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling event is relatively short, Gloucestershire offers plenty of alternative things to do in its vast county. Join locals and tourists at the surrounding pubs to socialize and listen to troubling stories of past Cheese Rolling events. Springtime in Brockworth is the place to be for outdoor activities filled with incredible entertainment.
Having gone to the Cheese Rolling event you have to try Gloucester cheese, the most famous Double Gloucester Cheese. Have it in a pie, it’s yummy and goes very well with a local Ale or just as a snack on crackers. If you fancy something sweet, the Gloucester Pancake is the local delicacy.
Leaving London on a bank holiday Monday was better than expected as the schools were off for the weekend. The M25 was strangely quiet driving up from London; something you hardly ever see. It took about 2 hours directly on the motorway, passing Reading and Swindon to get to Brockworth. Gloucestershire is located just 4 miles from Gloucester and 6 miles from Cheltenham.
Traveling from London by public transport, there are both trains and buses that travel directly to Gloucester. The Great Western Railway has direct trains from London Paddington to Gloucester, which leaves every two hours; with connecting services available in between direct departures. Travel time is approximately 2 hours and tickets start at around 32 pounds. From Gloucester Station, you can then take a quick bus ride to the event.
You can also find regional coach services, including National Express and Megabus, which travel directly to Cheltenham. The trip takes approximately 3 and a half hours and starts from 15 pounds per person. From Cheltenham, you can then take local buses 10 or 66 for 2 pounds to the event.
As soon we got to Brockworth, the roads were closed towards Coopers Hill and we were ushered towards the village. We went straight to Toby Carvery, Brockworth, paid our 5 pounds and parked in the carpark.
We made the mistake of not leaving early enough and had to walk in a single file through the fields of Brockworth and we were stressing out as we had to get to the Hill for the first race of the day at 12 pm. It’s about a 30-minute walk (just over a mile) through Abbotswood Road and Green St.
Several hotels, inns and cottages offer lodging for visitors from around the world. Some hotels even have views of the Cheese Rolling Hill from the property. The Hillview Cottage is only 200 meters away from the spectacle.
Bed and breakfast accommodations are a popular choice among visitors who enjoy a home-style experience. Be sure to head to the map for all the Airbnb’s and hotels in the area.
Travelers can easily arrive at the park via car or by following the local bus schedule. If you are driving from Gloucester city centre, take the A417 to Brockworth where you can then follow the local signs to the magnificent hill. Those without a car can take bus 10 Gloucester to Cheltenham via Brockworth or bus 46 from Stroud to Cheltenham via Brockworth.
Sol Neelman attended Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire as one of his bucket list events for his book ‘Weird Sports’. What other weird sports exist around the world? Listen to Rad Season Founder Oli Russell-Cowan chatting to Sol, there are certainly some events you have not heard of yet…
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