Hove man’s African adventure in aid of Chestnut Tree House

Fifty eight-year-old Giles Fairmann, from Hove, has always had an adventurous streak. But during the past two years, he has challenged himself like never before. First, he joined an expedition paddleboarding down the Amazon in an area not usually accessible to tourists, and now he is preparing to drive 3,800km through Namibia and Botswana – all in aid of local charities, including children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House.

Giles, a private client development director, met local entrepreneur, public speaker and former Marine Neil Laughton at a business networking event in Brighton. Neil is a serial adventurer and during lockdown, Giles contacted him to see whether he had any future expeditions planned.

This hunger for foreign travel and new experiences was not only down to the pandemic, though. “Unfortunately, we lost my father when he was quite young, in a car crash. He was 60 – only just retired – and I’m almost 59 now. While I don’t expect the same thing to happen to me, I do believe that the time to do these things is now.”

The group of 12 men will travel to Africa in May, driving 4x4s from Windhoek in Namibia through the Sossusvlei dunes, onto the Spitzkoppe peaks and up the Skeleton Coast. They will head into the Etosha National Park and pass through Tsumkwe camp close to the Botswana border on their way to the Okavango Delta. Finally, they will pass through the Kalahari Desert before returning to Windhoek.

The group has decided to split their fundraising between five charities, some of which work in the countries they are visiting. As a long-term supporter of Chestnut Tree House, Giles wanted the children’s hospice to benefit too.  “I think my first introduction to Chestnut Tree House was chatting to someone at an event in Hove Park or on Brighton seafront, and I just thought it sounded wonderful. I volunteered at a couple of events and ran a Marathon for the charity eight or nine years ago. I visited the House a few years ago and got a real feel for the work they do there, so it’s become a charity I really identify with and support.”

While he is expecting the African adventure to have some uncomfortable moments – possibly involving dirt tracks, mechanical mishaps, or the spectacular wildlife – Giles expects the greatest challenge to be lack of sleep, as they are camping most of the way. “But I don’t think we’re worried about that,” he says. “I think we’re just excited about seeing some new countries and meeting the people. The best thing about travelling is meeting the people because you only really get to know the country through them.

“And anyway,” he says. “There are 12 of us doing it – three in each vehicle. If something happens, we will just have to support each other.”

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