World of cheese rolling

With competitors set to chase a cheese down one of the steepest hills in Gloucestershire again, we send Daniel Fahey to Cooper’s Hill to find out more.

This is where the cheese stops rolling: a soulless coach house that serves Yorkshire puddings with its hot-plate breakfasts and as much pig as you can eat, for less than a couple of pints.

When I arrive, abandoned plates sit smeared in gravy, glowing beneath an arcade machine; crushed pink wafers cover part of the carpet.

The bar staff are dressed in all black, a company-wide effort to look professional, but that illusion expires when one thumbs coins into the gambler, hoping to pocket a post-shift premium.

Most customers are either chugging past Cheltenham on their way to Gloucester, or vice versa. It’s a pit stop for paint-slopped decorators squawking over a tools down tipple; a cheap chat-and-eat for young mothers and their gaggles.

But there’s so much urine showered around the toilet seat, you wouldn’t want to shit here, let alone settle down for lunch.

Yet every late May bank holiday it clutters with so many customers that the owners charge for car parking and – according to a barmaid at The Cheese Rollers down in nearby Shurdington – punters “drink the place dry”.

Location, it seems, is everything.

This is the nearest ‘boozer’ to Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, the famed gradient where senseless locals hurl themselves deathwards after a rounded slab of double Gloucester every May bank holiday.

The chase has been taking place here since at least 1800, the cheese rolling maybe longer than 1,300 years.

Similar customs were once observed at England’s great hillside chalk carvings, Cerne Giant and the Uffington White Horse, where pagans launched circles of solidified sour cream downhill during midsummer gatherings.

Then the cheese would represent the sun or the circle of the seasons and the roll would have been part of a ceremony that included other harvest celebrations like the scattering of seeds.