ODD SPORT – CHEESE ROLLING

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By Jessica Appleton

The Coopers Hill cheese-rolling and wake is an annual event held on the Spring bank holiday, on the last weekend of May. Coopers Hill is located near Gloucester in England. It’s traditionally organised by, and for the people living in the local village of Brockworth, but now people from all over the world come to see and be a part of the festivities.

This is a traditional event dating back to pagan times, however the exact origin is unknown, with two likely possibilities.

The first is that it evolved from a requirement for maintaining the grazing rights of the common, and the second possible origins is that it was a Pagan custom to roll burning brushwood down the hill to represent the birth of the new year after winter. In the fifteenth century this was amended and became cheese.

To compete in this sport, contestants gather at the top of the hill with a big hunk of Gloucester Cheese that weighs in at a hefty 7 pound (3kg). The cheese itself is a hard cheese traditionally made in the shape of a wheel. Each piece of cheese is protected during the rolling by a wooden casing around the side and is decorated with ribbons for the start of the race. The aim is to start at the top of the hill with the cheese and let it go, giving it a one second head start. Contestants then follow the cheese down – any way they can – to the bottom of the hill.

The cheese has been recorded at speeds of up to 70mph (112km/h), and has been known to injure a contestants and spectators due to this. If a contestant finally makes it down the hill with their cheese, and they are the first to cross the finish line, they are declared the winner and the prize, is of course the cheese!

Photo: “CheeseRolling” by Dave Farrance. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CheeseRolling.jpg#/media/File:CheeseRolling.jpg

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