Rad’s Guide to Cheese Rolling, England’s Strangest Sport

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Cheese Rolling: The Ultimate Quirky Extreme Sport

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. I 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; I had to see this for myself. What was the fascination with chasing a cheese down a hill and why are so many people there to watch it?

I left London on the bank holiday Monday in May, after a massive day out at Slam Dunk Festival in Hatfield. Catching up with some old friends and seeing some of my favourite bands, I was in high spirits and excited to get over to Coppers Hill in Gloucestershire and see what all the fuss was about.

How to get to Cooper’s Hill

Leaving London on a bank holiday Monday was better than expected as the schools were off for the weekend. We rented a car from Gatwick, which we could then drop off at the Airport the following day. 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, and home to one of the craziest events in the world.

Travelling from London by public transport, you can find 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. 

Walking to Cooper’s Hill

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 I was 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.

Once we got close the top you can see Cooper’s Hill and hear the crowd cheering. The thing that hit me was how bloody steep this hill is. It was going to be one mental race!

The Races

Men’s Downhill

We got to Copper’s hill just in the nick of time to catch the first race. We scrambled through the fields and trees past stinging nettles and got there just in time. The crowd was getting restless and chants of ‘Cheese, Cheese, Cheese’ were 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 applaud 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 hurling 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 this year. This year, the runner up local lad Max McDougall from Brockwell, won the race for the first time. Max knocked himself out at last years race so this year’s race went a lot smoother.

Uphill Race

It’s not only the downhill. The event also sees an uphill challenge. Racing from the bottom of Cooper Hill to the top. There was also a kid’s uphill race for any kids aged 12 and older. It was a real family event! We brought Theo along and he loved it; getting involved and chanting Cheese, Cheese, Cheese before the race. Although at 2 years old, he didn’t quite make the cut; maybe in a few years!

Women’s Downhill

The Women’s downhill event was won 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!

Final Men’s Downhill Race

The 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.

Mark was on a high as you can imagine and stoked out Theo by lending him the cheese after the race!

The Accidents

As you can imagine, the first aid station and an ambulance were close by. A couple had to be stretched off. One of the organisers of the event even ended up in the hospital’s A&E department, with injuries to her foot after attempting to stop the rolling cheese at full speed! 

‘The Idiots’

After the main races have finished, it’s the public’s turn to give the hill a go. ‘Now come the idiots’, I 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.

Rad Tips:

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 the 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. 

Read more about the strangest traditions in the UK. Are you looking to participate? What about the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales or Ottery Tar Barrels in England?

Photo credits: Oli Russell-Cowan

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Oli Russell-Cowan

The concept for Rad Season came about when I was trekking around Latin America. I found it difficult to find cool events and festivals going on that were a bit different and had an element of adventure and general radness to them. I knew that there was always something rad worth going to somewhere in the world, but there was no single platform bringing them together for like-minded people. With over 15 years experience in international business development, spanning multiple industries including action sports, events, media, digital, ICT, travel and tourism, I decided to combine them all with Rad Season.

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