Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling (An overview of this wonderfully strange event)

Every year on the Spring Bank Holiday (late May) at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire, hundreds of people run down a hill and chase a wheel of cheese. What started as a strange event held by a village has now gained global recognition, with people from countries across the world heading to England to take part in the cheese-rolling race. But what exactly is this event, and how did it start? Let's talk about it:

When did the event start?

The truth is that nobody is really sure when this event originated exactly, but we do know that it has been around for about 200 years and likely started in the early 18th century. And again, nobody is really sure why people decided to chase a wheel of cheese down a hill - some people say that it evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common, but the more common theory is that it emerged as a pagan tradition to encourage the fruits of the harvest.
Whatever the origin, the reality is that the current incarnation of the race has very little connection to the original. These days, people do it just for fun. And in our opinion, that is great!

What happens at the event?

Ok, so let's talk about the specifics of what actually happens at the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling event. First of all, the same cheese has to be used every time - a round of 8-pound Double Gloucester cheese, used because it is local and it is heavy enough to roll down the hill with good speed. There are typically 5 separate cheese-rolling events held on the day, 4 for men and 1 for women. Numbers are limited to a maximum of 40 people per event, for safety purposes (although let's be honest, it is still pretty dangerous).
The cheese is given a 1-second headstart, then everyone can start chasing. The idea is to catch the cheese but due to the gradient of the hill, the cheese can reach speeds of up to 70mph. Nobody is catching that, so the real winner is whoever crosses the finish line at the bottom first. Their prize? The cheese, of course.
The other thing that happens is lots of injuries. In fact, injuries are such a guarantee that there is an ambulance at the finish line every year.

What are the weirdest things to ever happen at this race?


  • A foam cheese was used in 2013 to try and make the event safer, but this was abandoned as it didn't make much difference


  • A spectator was once hit with the cheese and seriously injured


  • The event has been cancelled a number of times due to safety concerns, however it is still running (although it was paused due to Covid)

We hope this guide has inspired you to attend this very weird event! If you want to read something similar about traditional events in the UK, we have a guide about the Highland Games in Newtonmore and the Highland Gathering in Crieff.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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