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Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK


Cheese roll goes down well

Rolling cheeses have injured people

A 200-year old cheese-rolling race has passed off without serious injury after being banned last year on safety grounds.

The BBC's Jane O'Brien reports on a strange custom
The cheese race, down Cooper's Hill, in Gloucestershire, last took place in 1997 - when 33 competitors had to be treated by paramedics.

This year, St John Ambulance staff had only cuts and bruises to deal with following the four races in which competitors chased eight-pound double Gloucesters down a 45 degree hill.

Treble Gloucester

Extra safety precautions were taken this year, with a team of stewards and a mountain rescue unit on duty.

The course was also lined with crash barriers normally used for downhill skiing.

The race was a personal success for Gloucester's very own treble winner - Stephen Brain - who won all three men's races.

He said: "I've been in this for 15 years, on and off, and it is great that it is back after last year's event was cancelled."

And he had a tip for anyone wanting to try their hand at the dairy Derby.

"The trick is to try to stay on your feet," he said.

Whey to go!

Richard Jeffries, a member of the organising committee, said: "I thought everything went very well and the additional safety measures seemed to have paid off.

"It's been a great day and I think the decision to move it to noon stops people having too much to drink before they come."

Around 5,000 people are estimated to have watched this year's cheese-rolling.

Cheese rolling can be traced back at least 200 years and many local people believe it has its origins in Roman times.

Last year, despite the ban, die-hard enthusiasts rolled one cheese down the hill at 6am to keep the tradition unbroken.

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