Dairy Daredevils Defy Gravity in Annual British Cheese-Rolling Race


In a festival of audacity that would rival anything America has to offer, dairy-based daredevils did away with fear for the spectacularly odd, yet traditionally British, annual event of cheese rolling. Every year, coaxed on by the animated cheering of thousands of spectators, thrill-seeking racers careen recklessly after wheels of Double Gloucester cheese weighing in at 7 pounds. This unparalleled contest takes place on Cooper’s Hill, near Gloucester in the picturesque southwest of England. The first brave participant to cross the finish line behind the high-velocity cheese is acclaimed as the winner and is rewarded with the cheese itself.

This macabre sport of cheese rolling is steeped in the tradition, having been held annually at Cooper’s Hill, approximately 100 miles west of London, since at least as far back as 1826 and is believed to have historical roots that run even deeper.

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Much like a rugby scrum, the event is rough-and-tumble, riddled with safety concerns as few racers manage to keep their feet throughout the entire descent of the treacherous 200-yard hill. This year, the already treacherous slope was rendered even more precarious as recent rainfall left it especially slippery and muddy. To mitigate this, members of a local rugby club formed a human barrier at the bottom of the hill to catch the avalanching contestants, providing a wrestling-style soft landing.

This year, Tom Kopke from Munich, Germany emerged victorious in one of the three male races, attributing his victory more to an unflinching attitude than any racing technique. “You start, and then the adrenaline takes over, and you just go, go, go,” remarked a mud-streaked, breathless Kopke. He wryly added, “England is mad. I love it.”

The remaining male races were won by local contender Josh Shepherd and Australian Dylan Twiss from Perth. On the female front, Abby Lampe from North Carolina triumphed over her competition with a lightning-fast roll that saw her outdistance the rest of the competition well before the finish line. Victory, however, was not without suffering. “There’s a little bit of pain, but it’s temporary,” was Lampe’s advice. The brave woman, a graduate of NC State, repeated her 2022 victory this year.

Children and adults alike also participated in other races that offered a safer yet equally challenging uphill version of the race. On the same national holiday in late May, the town of Tetbury, about 20 miles away, held the Tetbury Woolsack races. Here, competitors carried packs of wool weighing up to 60 pounds over a 240-yard course, surging up and down the perilously steep Gumstool Hill. This race too has its roots in tradition, dating back to 1972 and drawing on a local custom dating back to the 17th century in this historic wool-trading town.