The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake is an annual event held in May at Cooper's Hill near Cheltenham and Gloucester. Competitors race down the hill after a Double Gloucester cheese, and the first person over the line wins the cheese. In theory, competitors are aiming to catch the cheese, but since it has a second's head start and can reach speeds up to 70mph (enough to knock over and injure a spectator as it did in 1997), this rarely occurs.
Due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries, ranging from sprained ankles to broken bones and concussions. A first aid service is provided by the local St John Ambulance (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud Divisions) at the bottom of the hill, with a volunteer rescue group on hand to carry down to them any casualties who do not end up at the bottom through gravity. A number of ambulance vehicles will attend the event, since there is invariably at least one and often several more injuries requiring hospital treatment. Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarized as "twenty young men chase a cheese off a cliff and tumble 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital".
The last race of the 2005 event was delayed while the ambulances returned from the hospital, all of them having been required to transport casualties from previous races. Nevertheless, it was one of the most popular events in recent years, with many more participants than were able to run in the four races.
Accurate information is hard to come by, but the tradition is at least 200 years old. Suggestions are made that it may date back to Roman times, or may have been a pagan healing ritual, but there is no evidence for this.
The Cheese Rollers is also the name of the nearby pub about half mile stroll from Cooper's Hill. Competitors will frequent this venue for some pre-event Dutch courage or discussion of tactics, and after the event for some convalescence.
(Content courtesy of Wikipedia.)
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