A BASINGSTOKE dad was cheered on by hundreds of people as he munched his way through two bags of watercress to win an unusual championship title.

David White was declared the winner of the 2014 World Watercress Eating Championships, held at Alresford’s annual Watercress Festival.

The popular event drew a large crowd, who watched David and three other finalists consume the salad leaves in the quickest time possible – much to the amusement of spectators.

Tactics included stuffing in handfuls of the peppery leaves and then manically chewing, knocking back water with each mouthful, and compressing the watercress into a small ball before trying to swallow it.

A newcomer to the contest, David, was up against tough competition in the form of reigning Guinness World Record holder Glenn Walsh and previous World Champion winners Sam Batho and Rajesh Peter.

Despite the odds being against him, he managed to chomp his way through two 80g bags of watercress in one minute 59 seconds, securing a victory against his competitors.

The 50-year-old, who only decided to enter the competition at the last minute, said: “I didn’t have any practice, although I do love watercress, so that probably helped!”

Around 15,000 people attended this year’s festival, which was the biggest turn-out in the festival’s 11-year history.

The event is held to celebrate Alresford’s connection to watercress – the town has more watercress farms in its surrounding area than any other part of the UK, because of its mineral-rich spring waters and specially-built railway line, which enabled farmers to get their leaves to market in Covent Garden.