Normally, the second holiday in May means one thing here, Cheese Rolling, but the event, which sees thousands of people on the steep slopes of Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth, was canceled due to coronavirus, police urging fans to stay away for their own safety.
The tradition dates back centuries. Some say it was a matter of claiming grazing rights to the town and the land around Cooper’s Hill, others say it could have been a fertility ritual. Nowadays, rolled cheese is officially an extreme sport, with competitors traveling to Gloucester around the world.
It’s about chasing a 9 lb Double Gloucester cheese on the almost vertical slopes of the hill. The first runner to the bottom wins and the cheese is the prize. The goal is to catch the cheese but since it travels at speeds of up to 70 mph, it is almost impossible.
But without runners or crowds, this year’s Cheese Roll was a purely symbolic affair, with cheese master Jem Wakeman, rolling cheese (from Smart’s of Birdwood) on an empty hill shortly after sunrise at around 5:30 a.m. .
He said, “We just roll the cheese for tradition, when it was canceled, I was devastated, so sad. We are not asking anyone to come up the hill, so stay away. We hope to see everyone again next year with hope. “
Without crowds or barriers to stop the cheese, the Double Gloucester bounced off the famous slope in a few seconds, coming to rest against the fence of the house at the bottom of the hill.
As the sun crawled over the county, ready for the next day, Jem returned home, normally the cheese goes to the winners of the races, but this year without pursuit, he returned with Jem.
Earlier in the week, Gloucestershire police confirmed that additional patrols will take place around Cooper’s Hill, and those who attempt to access the hill may be deported.
A Gloucestershire police spokesperson said, “We know that the annual cheese rolling event, scheduled to take place at Cooper’s Hill on Monday May 25, has been canceled due to Covid-19.
“The event usually draws up to 8,000 attendees and spectators, and we know how disappointed the regular attendees will be that it will not take place this year.
“However, we urge them to follow government laws and guidelines, which prevent large groups of people from meeting in one place, and to find other ways to enjoy the holiday.”
The statement went on to say, “In addition to breaking the rules, they could put themselves and others at risk and could add to the burden of emergency services, especially the NHS.
“There will be police patrols in the area, as well as other key places of beauty in Gloucestershire, and we will continue to engage with those who break the rules and ignore the guidelines.
“We will, as always, explain our reasons and encourage people to return home, but we will resort, if necessary, to anyone who refuses to cooperate. “