Fire Fighters fuelled by watercress for charity ride


It didn’t bode well as the rain pounded on the windscreen and sure enough arriving at Drayton Watercress Farm in Hampshire the expected cyclists from the Southampton Airport fire crew were nowhere to be seen. Taking shelter in the farm offices, however, were Station Manager John Foskett and firefighter Leanne Watters fully clothed in their uniforms, looking very dry and with not a bike in sight!

‘It was a bit wet to go training,’ explains John “the team are keen to remain fighting fit, not get a chill before the event but we’ll be made of sterner stuff when it comes to the charity ride.!’

A total of five members of Southampton Airport’s Firefighting team are joining forces to raise in excess of £3,000 for the airport’s chosen charity, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance by riding 655 miles in six days (!) , starting on June 24.  The ride will go from Aberdeen Airport, taking in Glasgow Airport (the third airport in the group) and Thruxton Aeordrome, home of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance before arriving back home at Southampton Airport no doubt saddle sore but triumphant on 29 June!

John and Leanne had come to the watercress farm to take delivery of their first batch of Watercress Power Balls which The Watercress Company had promised to make to help power them for every stage of the ride.


Grown in flowing spring water that bubbles up from aquifers deep under the chalky South Downs, Watercress is a nutritional powerhouse containing over 50 vital minerals and vitamins.  Gram for gram it provides more calcium than milk, more Vitamin C than Orange, more folate than banana and more Vitamin E than broccoli.  Added to that watercress is high in fibre and rich in iron.  However, watercress has also been scientifically proven to protect against the DNA damage caused by high intensity exercise and it aids the body’s recovery afterwards.

James Harper from The Watercress Company who had hand made the Power Balls himself that morning explains: “When we heard about what the team are intending to do, we wanted to help them achieve their goal.  The Watercress Power Balls are made using a whole host of healthy ingredients but it’s the watercress that makes them so special. Packed full of natural nitrates to boost their VO2 max as well as peppery isothiocynates to repair DNA damaged caused by the exercise.  We are delivering a supply of Power Balls as well as some fresh watercress to each hotel on their route so that they will be available to help fuel the next stage.”

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The challenge has been a long time in the making. It was back in October 2018 that John uttered aloud the words ‘why don’t we challenge ourselves to raise money for a worthy cause’ while talking to the Green Watch in Southampton Airport Fire Station.  The idea for the cycle ride swiftly followed.  What he was not expecting was the willingness of others to get involved given the not inconsiderable distance to be covered.  John advertised the challenge and to his astonishment seven members of the fire service team volunteered either as cyclists or as support crew.

All the individuals taking part are keen cyclists, but none have been involved in a challenge of this magnitude.  To prepare, the team has had a number of group rides of distances between 50 and 100 miles but to undertakes 6 successive days of over 100 miles each will be a challenge, as John confesses.

 He said: “We have a huge challenge ahead and are delighted to be receiving Watercress Power Balls to keep us going.  These will be a vital source of energy for us along the 655 mile ride and will be a welcome treat!”

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Photo both smiling

James concludes: “We wish the riders every success and hope that we have helped in some small way.  The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance is such an important service for all of us living in the area and we hope the cyclists raise a substantial sum of money for them.”

 To support the charity ride, or donate, visit

Discover how taking your own #watercresschallenge can improve training and the benefits of eating watercress in sport’s nutrition here

 and to make your own Watercress Power Balls, follow the recipe