Hundreds of daredevils gathered on a steep hillside for the first ever ‘unofficial’ cheese rolling contest – after the historic event was axed over health and safety fears.
Runners and spectators met at Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth in Gloucestershire to carry on the tradition which sees competitors chase a 7lb wheel of Double Gloucester down a 200-yard incline.
The Whitsun cheese rolling had been held annually for nearly two centuries until it was banned earlier this year because it was deemed to dangerous.
But fans of the tradition vowed to keep it going by holding an unofficial cheese rolling contest and hundreds ignored official warnings by attending this year’s event.
Police said there would be no dedicated medical help for casualties and that the unofficial contests could jeopardise the chance of an official event happening next year under a different format.
But the event still attracted around 300 people with visitors travelling from as far afield as Holland to witness the eccentric tradition.
Competitor Nima Nasseri, a 30-year-old doctor from Sheffield, ran for the first time in the contest and described the experience as ”painful”.
He said: ”I really enjoyed competing. For a contest that was supposed to be banned there certainly were a lot of people there.
”I can sort of understand why it was banned, as there is an element of danger, but it was great fun.
”It was a bit painful though, I’ve got a few scratches and what feels like carpet burns.
”There seemed to be a few injuries this year, but nothing serious. I’m a doctor but luckily I didn’t need to treat anyone.”
Six times cheese rolling champion Chris Anderson, 22, visited the site the previous day to clear the hill and do a trial run down the slope.
He said: ”It’s just tradition, and for me it’s hard to stay away. I still totally support the organisers in their bid to bring it back next year.”
This year’s event was axed after eighteen people were injured last year – ten of which were not even competitors but SPECTATORS.
There are dozens of injuries every year among the men and women who hurl themselves down the hill in a bid to catch the cheese, but these are mainly minor.
However, the sheer number of people flooding in to watch the event – up to 10,000 people – led to increased concern from the police and councils.
A police spokeswoman said the unofficial event taking place could undermine the possibility of any future cheese rolling contests.
She said: ”Gloucestershire Constabulary and all partners, including the Cheese Rolling Committee, strongly advised against participation in any unofficial event taking place on the hill.
”Unlike in previous years, there are no dedicated on-site medical facilities or rescue organisations to assist with casualty recovery.
”We understand the Cheese Rolling Committee and their partners are now committed to working hard to ensure that next year’s event can take place in a safe and organised manner.”
The competition, which dates back hundreds of years, involves participants chasing a 7lb Double Gloucester cheese down the hill in a series of races.
The winner of each race wins the cheese.
Every year people are injured running down the steep gradient – which is so rough and uneven that it is almost impossible to remain on foot for the descent.
In 1997 at least 33 people were injured and treated by St John’s Ambulance.