Rollers left cheesed off as event stopped due to overcrowding, but organisers are trying to find a solution
It has long been regarded as one of the most curious – and hazardous – of English springtime pastimes. Competitors chase a large round of cheese down a steep hill in Gloucestershire, risking ridicule and broken limbs.
But it emerged today that the annual cheese-rolling event at Cooper’s Hill above Brockworth has become the latest victim of health and safety concerns.
This year’s event has been cancelled, not because organisers fear that those taking part will hurt themselves, but because the competition has become too popular and is attracting unmanageable crowds.
The organisers said: “The attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year, more than 15,000 people tried to attend, which is more than three times the capacity of the site.”
It goes on to reassure disappointed competitors that the committee is working with local authorities and the police to try to find better ways of controlling the crowds, stop the roads from getting clogged up and make sure that ambulances can get through when, almost inevitably, a competitor is injured.
The announcement, however, has caused dismay among the adventurous types that like to take part in the May event.
Robin Hammond, of the Really Exciting Adventure Club, said: “I do understand the issues about the crowd, but wish that the local authorities had worked harder to ensure that we don’t lose another part of our English culture to issues of crowd health and safety.
“Admittedly, last year had a record turnout to the event, which only goes to show how great this event is, with it being watched and talked about worldwide. I am sure that the local area benefits from the custom the crowds bring, so surely the local authorities have had time enough to consider the health and safety of this event.”
The event has become a tourist attraction. Sally Baker wrote on the organisers’ website that she was travelling from Australia to the UK in the spring and “top of my itinerary” had been to “attend the cheese rolling”.
Others wrote that they would turn up even if there was no official event. “I say we do it anyway. They can’t stop us,” wrote Dan Stone. “I will bring the cheese,” said Gemma Bailey.
James D wrote: “I can’t believe that such an important sport to Gloucestershire has been abandoned due to health and safety. Hopefully they will roll a single cheese in memory of the great tradition, which has now become lost to continued absurd heath and safety issues. RIP Coopers Hill.”
Mike Smith added: “Dreadfully disappointed with the news. As a cheese-roller of many years, I look forward to the chance to really injure myself each year. I have no idea how I’ll hurt myself this year now.”