Now that might sound like a very odd question, but if you are heading for a Cotswolds Holiday in May you will have a chance to watch people doing just that.
Cheese rolling isn’t a euphemism for another activity altogether either. We are referring to the activity of rolling a cheese down a hill. This isn’t any ordinary cheese you will find at your local supermarket either. This weighs several pounds and acts as the prize as well as the object of everyone’s attention!
The race is always begun at the top of a hill. Coopers Hill is the best example. Someone rolls the cheese down the hill and then the idea is that everyone who is taking part in the race chases after it. Of course it isn’t as easy as it sounds – the steep gradient of the chosen hill means that few competitors actually make it down the entire hill on foot. Many thrills and spills occur en route, before one person finally makes it down first and gets to keep the cheese as a prize. It has to be seen to be believed, but this event is thought to have its roots way back in history. If you can imagine the Romans throwing themselves down the hill after such a lump of cheese, you will get an idea of how far back this idea stretches.
In theory you are supposed to literally catch the cheese to win, but this is virtually impossible given the speed it is going. The steepness of the hill also leads to many people reaching the bottom on something other than their feet! Some have clearly worked on a technique to stay on their feet as long as possible, and when they fall they tuck and roll to keep going as fast as they can.
You may find it unbelievable but there are usually people waiting at the bottom to try and catch those who are taking part in the race to slow them down!
Some would say it is a typically mad English pastime, but those who take part seem to enjoy it. There are crash barriers made from straw and a waiting bank of St John’s Ambulance people at the foot of the hill though, so it might seem a high price to pay to try and win a lump of cheese!
If you want to stay close to the action you can stay at Hay Barn Cottage in Coopers Hill itself. This building itself is some two hundred years old, but it isn’t thought to pre-date the cheese rolling competition!
Even if you don’t quite have the nerve to try chasing after the cheese yourself, you can still watch the action if you pay a visit during May. Monday 25th May is the date to put in your diary, so see if you can book your visit to the Cotswolds so you are in the area on that day.
Be prepared for traffic though, as the event is very popular.