The police and Gloucestershire county council keep trying to make it hard for people to support the annual tradition of cheese rolling on Bank Holiday Monday at Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth.
Four years after the event was banned on health and safety grounds (sorry..just pausing to snigger) and visitor numbers were becoming “dangerously unmanageable,” the custom only continues because Brockworth people made it their business to make sure it survives.
This year the police announced extensive road closures and ‘no waiting’ zones to discourage the public from attending. Gloucestershire County Council also got in on the act by posting numerous off-putting signs around the area. I saw several of them littering the depths of the countryside. I do hope someone remembered to take them all down.
“WARNING Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll Cheese rolling is a dangerous activity for both participants and spectators. The cheese roll is not managed. You are strongly advised not to attend. It is especially unsuitable for children. You attend entirely at your own risk “
Gloucestershire County Council can stop meddling with something which is absolutely *not* its concern and spend council taxpayers money on something more useful – like mending potholes instead of painting around them.
The clamp-down was such that if you wanted to visit Witcombe Roman Villa, a beautiful spot a mile away from the hill, you couldn’t – because some petty-minded person had locked a gate on the road leading to the car park and villa.
Officialdom doesn’t like cheese rolling. Officialdom would rather it didn’t happen and that people stayed obediently away from the event that they have enjoyed since time immemorial. Officialdom thinks cheese rolling is silly and a bit of a nuisance.
The county councillors, the council officials and the police – who annually waste taxpayers money flying above the event in a helicopter (we always give them a wave and people can use whatever fingers they like) – are all *temporary.* Fortunately none of them will last as long as the cheese rolling has lasted and will last.
Brockworth is an average-looking village with a beautiful church dating back to Norman times, an old Benedictine abbey-turned farmhouse, Simon Pegg’s old school and a respected rugby club but the feature locals cherish more than all of those is its cheese rolling tradition on the hill.
Local people will keep the faith with this annual celebration of fearlessness and reckless abandon for fun and the admiration of the masses.
Those who are brave of heart, or braver due to a few beers, take on the challenge of chasing the bouncing round of Double Gloucester cheese down the 1 in 2 slope.
Those who don’t possess those attributes stand all around the slope and cheer and applaud the crazy muddy competitors as they hurtle, roll, run and cartwheel chaotically down the hill. And let’s not forget the uphill races. Respect to those who climb the wall of the hill, desperately clutching on to nettles and grassy tufts to aid their ascent.
Everyone treks up to the hill on Bank Holiday Monday of their own free will and entirely at their own risk. They don’t need nannying or warning notices. One look at that hill slope rising into the sky imparts the bleedin’ obvious – that you wouldn’t even want to walk down it, let alone run. Personally, I can’t even look at the view unless I’m 6 feet back from the edge, so it’s with the greatest respect that I applaud the competitors and celebrate the freedom of the event every year.
This year a whole contingent of people from Gouda – Gloucester’s twin town – got in on the act and at the end of the races, bowled their own Gouda cheeses down the hill. Their cheeses broke into pieces but all the chasers survived for a mass celebration at the bottom of the hill. No doubt they’ll be back next year to have another go with more sturdy cheeses. As Depeche Mode said, you need your own, personal cheeses.
A red-haired bloke stood next to me having a recovery fag after hurtling down in the first race. He had weeds and bits of grass sticking out from his tousled locks and his clothes were caked and streaked with mud.
“God, my ribs hurt,” he said, rubbing his side. “That big divot in the middle got me.”
Turned out he’d driven all the way from Colchester that morning on his own. Why?
“Because I read about it and though well, that just has to be done,” he grinned.
That, right there, is the spirit…the spirit of The Cheese. Let’s hear it for the Cheese.
One of the many warning signs.
Hard luck if anyone disabled wanted to visit Witcombe Roman Villa.
The race is on! Catchers (thanks Brockworth Rugby Club) waiting at the bottom.
View from the side of the hill
Don’t try to do this at home, though.
Fallers…and Superman is *down*!
Walking wounded. Suspected dislocated shoulder
Lucy (left) the winner of the Womens’ Race