FIREFIGHTERS completed a gruelling 560-mile cycle ride to raise money for injured colleagues.
Eight of them, from stations across the area, saddled up a week ago to cycle the length of the UK for The Fire Fighters Charity.
They were led by Paul Wilkinson, who has seen first hand the amazing care and support the three rehabilitation centres offer firefighters and their families.
He was there last year to recuperate after damaging a hip tendon and decided there and then to make an extraordinary effort to help chip away at the £9m needed each year to fund the centres – which are in Cumbria, Devon and West Sussex.
He said: ’It was a fantastic trip. The team did so well.
‘We managed to keep each others’ spirits up even on the last day from St Mary’s station to Littlehampton when it was raining.
‘It was tough going in parts but if you put the training in it was fine.
‘Some of the hills were hard work. We climbed the equivalent of the height of Everest – 28,000ft in 560 miles.
‘We were all aching when we got back and needed at least one day off and a massage – we just didn’t get the massage!’
So far £5,500 has been raised by the team but there is still time to donate.
Paul added: ‘We’re really grateful to everyone who has supported us so far. But what we’d really love is to reach our target of £7,000.
‘It is a charity close to many of our hearts and has helped a number of us in times of need during our firefighting career.’
The team was made up of Paul Wilkinson and Graham Dance from Havant station, Steve Winter from Emsworth station, Mark Hilton and Ian Cambridge from Fareham station, Paul Ponsford and Steve Dudley, from Gosport, and Lee Benson from Hightown.
They were supported by drivers Tom Maslin, from Fareham station, and Joe Forrest, from Cosham.
Their journey began at Jubilee House, in the Lake District, last Monday.
From there the team cycled towards Harcombe House in Devon, stopping at various fire stations along the way, before arriving at their final destination, Marine Court in Littlehampton.
Sponsorship for the team is still pouring in.
To sponsor the team just go to justgiving.com/Paul-wilkinson21.
All the money raised will go directly to The Fire Fighters Charity.
Go to firefighterscharity.org.uk.