Cheese race winner in a real pickle

Thurrock Gazette: Rebel cheese rollers staged their own unofficial event after health and safety fears caused the official competition to be cancelled in 2010 Rebel cheese rollers staged their own unofficial event after health and safety fears caused the official competition to be cancelled in 2010

The winner of a daredevil race chasing 8lbs of Double Gloucester down a hill at high speed does not even like cheese.

Teenager Josh Shepherd ran down Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire like a rocket to take part in the world-famous event.

The 19-year-old, from Brockworth, Gloucester, made sure the winner of the first race was a local.

"I've run quite a few times before but it is the first time I've won," Josh, who is unemployed, said.

"It feels good to have won. I had to put all my effort in to get in front of everyone. I'm really happy.

"My tactic was to stay on my feet and go as fast as I can and roll with the flow.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with the cheese. I don't really like cheese unless it's melted, cheese on toast maybe.

"I'm doing it as it's fun. I've done it and won and I'm really proud of myself."

Rebel cheese rollers staged their own unofficial event after health and safety fears caused the official competition to be cancelled in 2010.

An 8lbs round piece of Double Gloucester is chased 200 yards down Cooper's Hill at Brockworth.

After a year's hiatus - when police warned against the use of a real cheese - the imitation lightweight foam cheese has been binned in favour of the genuine article.

Long-time cheese-maker Diana Smart, 87, who has produced cheese for the event for more than 25 years, has once again provided the wheels for this year's event.

In total, four cheeses weighing about three kilograms each and three smaller ones, weighing about one-and-a-half kilograms, are used.

The unusual event has been celebrated for centuries and is thought to have its roots in a heathen festival to celebrate the return of spring.

The official event was cancelled after more than 15,000 people turned up as spectators to watch the 2009 competition.

Since then it has been held unofficially with the police keeping a watchful eye.

Gloucestershire County Council has closed roads up to two-and-a-half miles around the slope.

It was a double victory for Brockworth as local factory worker Ryan Fairley, 24, won the second men's race.

He said: "My tactic was just 'to go' to be honest with you.

"I didn't do the first race this year but it's absolutely brilliant to have won. I also won a cheese last year."

Thousands of people lined the course to watch the event, which has a following around the world.

Hairdressing student Lucy Townsend, 17, from Brockworth, made it a hat-trick by winning the women's race for the third consecutive year.

She said: "You've got to win haven't you? There isn't a secret to winning. I just run and hope."

Some competitors had travelled from Spain, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands to take part in the series of madcap races.

The winner of the final downhill race was Australian Sheldon Ronald, 20, from Melbourne.

Mr Ronald, who has been over in the UK travelling and doing bar work, said: "I have been travelling for a year and a half and I was in the first race and came second, then went back in the last race and won it.

"It's amazing to have won, so good. I decided to take part a couple of months ago.

"I'd been a sprinter in Australia and I love running and as soon as I saw this festival I knew it was the one for me."

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