It’s the end of January and, although it hasn’t been a bad winter, I’m feeling a bit like a caged animal … ready to pounce on anything that looks the least bit exciting. Snow is in the forecast … again. Covid restrictions are still in place for many activities. Family and friends are still hunkering down. What to do?
I’ve read more books in the past month than I’ve read in the past year. I’ve mastered the art of making “macarons”. Every closet and drawer has been cleaned, organized and decluttered. My spices are now in alphabetical order. Pitiful. I know. But, again, what to do?
I wonder if this is how the organizers of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Contest felt when they came up with this bizarre idea for a contest. I’m imagining a few very bored dairy farmers having a pint or two at the local pub one dreary January, when one of them said “Let’s roll an 8 pound wheel of cheese down a very steep hill and see how many people we can convince to chase it”. Brilliant! Cheese rolling? Down a hill? Why not!
Apparently, this ‘cheese rolling event‘ has been held in the little parish village of Brockworth, England for the past 600 years. Each year, on the last Sunday of May, on Cooper’s Hill, you’ll find hundreds of spectators, young and old, lining both sides of this incredibly steep hill. And it’s not just local villagers who participate. Over the years, this ‘cheese rolling event’ has caught the attention of people from countries all over the world, like Nepal, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Some have called this the most dangerous footrace in history. Others have called it ‘the stupidest footrace in history‘ as “twenty young men and women chase a cheese off a cliff and tumble 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital.” This event is not sanctioned by any agency or political organization, and has been banned on occasion because of the number of injuries. Participants can expect to get scrapes and bruises, but broken bones and concussions are not unusual occurrences. Yes, a first aid station and ambulance service is provided by the local hospital.
What are the rules? They are very simple … the 8 pound wheel of cheese is allowed to roll down the hill from the very top. At 12 noon, the Master of Ceremony kicks off the event by shouting: ‘One to be ready, two to be steady, three to prepare (at which point the cheese is released), and four to be off.’ The competitors then launch themselves down the hill after the cheese. The winner is the first one who reaches the bottom after the cheese. Originally, the winner had to catch it, but that was next to impossible, with the cheese reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. The winner must then take the cheese and hold it up over his or her head for the official photograph.
Completely out of control, crashing into one another, gaining speed as they roll. Head over heels, tumbling, faster and faster, its a wonder they make it at all. And, after this punishing race, you win THE CHEESE!
Have I interested you yet in participating? Well, if you’re crazy enough to do it, you do not need to meet any criteria … or fill out any paperwork … or submit a video to the organizers. All you need to do is show up on time and make yourself known to whoever seems to be in charge. There doesn’t seem to be a maximum number of participants. As many as 40 have tumbled down this incline at one time. And anything you might like to wear to attract attention is allowed … and there have been some risk takers for sure. I’d suggest something protective rather than risqué.
This race is not restricted to just crazy young men … crazy young women also participate … and win. In fact, 28-year-old Flo Early won for the fourth time. Her first race at the age of 17 whetted her appetite for more. Now, however, after a broken collar bone three years ago and now an ankle injury, this brave woman has decided to give up the cheese chase.
Well, all things considered, I guess I’ll just wait out the rest of the winter. I don’t think I’m ready (just yet) to consider throwing myself down a steep embankment for the thrill of chasing anything, never mind a bit of Wensleydale! Wallace, I’m not.
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References: History of Yesterday, CarniFest, VisitBritain, AtlasObscura, Wikipedia, CultureTrip,