Chasing the cheese at Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire - Pic BBC
Chasing the cheese at Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire – Pic BBC

Leaping into spring with a dash down a hill after a cheese or a plunge into the River Cherwell at dawn

They roll down hills and jump into rivers – and run naked through the streets. OK – not the last one – people do that all the time after a drink or two.
But middle-aged men do dance in the street ringing bells and beating sticks – the merry sound of morris I refer to. Yes, it’s spring time it’s ring time and on May the first (or there abouts) the sap rises and it makes people do strange and usually energetic things.
Cheese Rolling
At 12noon on May 30, Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire will see men, women and children tumble down or scramble up the 1 in 2 slope in pursuit of a Double Gloucester cheese made by hand by Diana Smart of Churcham, using milk from her herd of Brown Swiss, Holstein and Gloucester cows. The festival was originally held at midsummer but was moved at some time to Whitsuntide, taking place on Whit Monday. In 1967, the Bank Holiday was moved from the Church’s Whitsun Festival to become a ‘Spring Bank Holiday’ to be on the last Monday in May each year. The ‘Cheese Rolling and Wake’ was also moved to that day. The event is quite ancient although its origins are unkonwn but are likely to be linked to grazing rights or the welcoming of the sun on mid-summer.
It became embroiled in controversey in 2010 when attempts were made to make it more organised – mainly due to pressure from the local council. However it still remains a largely community organised event despite attempts by officialdom to enforce H&S. In reality the day is efficiently run by the local people who dedicate their time to making the occassion as safe as possible – sprained ankles permitting.

Leaping into the River Cherwell in Oxford. Pic: Daily Mail
Leaping into the River Cherwell in Oxford. Pic: Daily Mail

Magdalen Bridge jumping
Traditionally people have gathered on and by Magdalen Bridge in Oxford on May 1, at 6am to listen to a 17th century hymn sung from Magdalen College tower by choristers. Believed to have started in the 1970s, the habit is actively discouraged following a spate of injuries as students hit the bottom of the shallow stream and the authorities have attempted to ban the practice. The tradition of greeting the dawn with song dates to 1509.

More madness in Rapscallion Magazine – see: – Harry The Spiv on Facebook and Twitter