Thrill-seekers Surge at Gravity-Defying UK Cheese-Rolling Race


In the heart of Britain, thriftlessness took human form on Cooper’s Hill, overlooking the sleepy town of Gloucester, southwest of London. Cheese-rolling, an annual tradition both steeped in history and unabashed lunacy, saw a surge of fearless thrill-seekers put their daring to the ultimate test.

From the precipice of the near-vertical hill, a heated chase began beyond the yonder, led by nothing more than 7-pound wheels of rich Double Gloucester cheese. The crowd, thousands strong, watched with bated breath as scores of racers, oblivious to the perils of the muddy incline, pitted their guts and determination against gravity. The objective is deceptively simple: follow the trail of the fast-rolling cheese, and whoever crosses the finish line first wins the coveted dairy prize.

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Sands of time have washed over Cooper’s Hill, marking the spot of this eccentric custom as far back as 1826, though the origins of the sport are thought to predate this reference by some margin. It’s as if the spirit of this captivating tradition refuses to roll away with the passing centuries.

But the event is not without its hazards. The 200-yard patch down the hill feels like an eternal tumble for most participants, with few managing to remain upright till the end. This year, with the heavens opening up before the event, the normally treacherous hill turned literally slippery, heightening the risks manifold. At the bottom, waiting like fearless defenders in the path of the rolling human avalanche, were members of a local rugby club, standing guard to halt the momentum of tumbling competitors.

Amongst the winners was Tom Kopke, hailing from Munich, Germany, his clothes shared the same muddy palette as the hill. Kopke took the mantle for one of the men’s races. With the charm of a victor and the grin of a daredevil, he explained, “You start and then the adrenaline takes over and you just go, go, go.” He expresses his affection for the event and England, amidst pants of exhaustion.

Fellow racers, Josh Shepherd, a local hero, and Dylan Twiss from as far away as Perth, Australia, went home victorious from the other two men’s downhill races. The women’s race saw Abby Lampe from North Carolina secure a spot in the hall of fame. Her swift tumble awarded her a well-deserved, albeit a bit worn around the edges, wheel of cheese.

The late-May national holiday, usually marked with a gentler uphill version of the race, saw dozens of undeterred children and adults pushing their mettle against the hill for whom, it seemed, size was just a number.

Approximately 20 miles away, in the historic wool-trading town of Tetbury, fellow daredevils carried 60-pound sacks of wool across a 240-yard uphill-downhill course of the steep Gumstool Hill during the Tetbury Woolsack Races. This relatively younger tradition dates back to 1972, immortalizing a local custom from the 17th century.

Each year, the spectacle of cheese-rolling and wool-carrying races come alive with daring hearts and resolute souls eager to challenge the rules of sanity and gravity. It is a testament to the spirit of human endeavor and the indescribable love for tradition and, of course, cheese.