Why?

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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.

The remains of an Ancient Britons' fort stand at the top of the hill, and the Romans are known to have inhabited the area.

Research undertaken so far is not complete, but documentary evidence shows that Cheese Rolling on Cooper's Hill was already an old tradition in the early 1800s.

It could have evolved from early fertility rites and hopes of a successful harvest, or to safeguard the 'Commoners' Rights of the inhabitants of the Hill.

There is no evidence of a break in this amazing event*, one that thousands flock to see each year, and local residents are determined that the tradition will never die.

*Three times in recent years, the public event has been cancelled:

1998 - The police had been very concerned by the number of injuries (most of them fairly minor) that were reported the previous year. The following statement was issued to the press on Tuesday 19th. May, (the week before the Bank holiday) by the Cheese Roll Committee:

The organizing committee of the Cooper’s Hill  Cheese Rolling has reluctantly concluded that because of bureaucratic constraints related to public safety, the great spectacle of the Cheese Rolling cannot take place this year.

Adverse and inappropriate comments recently seen in the local press have precipitated reaction from those in charge of essential services that attend the Cheese Rolling. This has resulted in preconditions being set that in the view of the Committee cannot be guaranteed.

The safety of the public has always been of paramount importance to the organizers and because of the inherent risks associated with the event the Committee has made its reluctant decision.

The Committee’s intentions are to ensure that the long-standing tradition of Cheese Rolling will be continued and will remain a part of   the culture of Gloucestershire.”

The landowners of Cooper’s Hill had become increasingly concerned about public liability, a view possibly not helped by exaggerated reports of injuries.

The St. John’s Ambulance Service had always been willing to treat any injuries as they occurred, but were no longer able to climb the hill to help. In recent years a cave-rescue team had helped in this respect.

Unfortunately the committee was unable to secure the services of the cave-rescue team this  time, and reluctantly cancelled the event six days before the Wake was due to take place.

2001- A widespread outbreak of 'Foot-and-mouth' disease lead to the near 'closure' of the countryside. The public was advised not to visit rural areas and even locals were not walking on the hill. It was therefore impossible to hold the event.

2003 - By this time, the committee had obtained the services of a search-and -rescue team to help St. John Ambulance personnel by moving possible casualties off the hill for treatment. Unfortunately, during May 2003 there was an earthquake in Algeria which needed the emergency help of the search-and -rescue team. Without their presence, the St. John team had to withdraw their services at short notice (3 days!) and the committee was forced once more to cancel the event.

However ... on each of these occasions a single cheese has been rolled by the committee, to maintain the tradition.

2010 - Cancellation of the event by the Committee of CHCRC Ltd, was announced on Friday 12th March. This time however, things were to be different! 
The hard core of enthusiasts and fans found themselves unable to accept that the event had been cancelled, for what they considered unacceptable reasons. 
This time, the enthusiasts took over the event and organised an excellent program of Cheese Rolling, at the appointed time, on the hill and thus, they themselves, maintained the unbroken tradition of Cheese Rolling at Coopers Hill.

(Photos by J.J.)
 
Webmaster - Last Edited 15-Jun-2010 22:10:47 avsglos

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