Monday, October 18, 2004

Follow that cheese!

The annual Gloucestershire 'Cheese Rolling and Wake' has been taking place for possibly hundreds of years. It may have been started by the Phoenicians, the Ancient Britons, or the Romans. Remains of an Ancient Britons' fort stand at the top of the hill, and the Romans are known to have inhabited the area.

There are 4 downhill races (one is for ladies). At the top of the hill, competitors sit in a line and wait. The Master of Ceremonies escorts an invited guest to the start line and helps him (or her) to sit on the precipitous slope, holding a 7-8lb. Double Gloucester cheese. At this point the competitors hurl themselves down the slope after the cheese. The first person to arrive at the foot of the hill wins the cheese. Those who come second and third receive a small cash prize.

Research undertaken so far is not complete, but documentary evidence shows that Cheese Rolling was already an old tradition in the early 1800s. It could have evolved from ancient fertility rites, hopes of a successful harvest or to safeguard the 'Commoners' Rights' of the inhabitants of the Hill.