Improving life after brain injury Need to talk? 0808 800 2244

Home About brain injury Individuals Brain injury and me

An awfully big row: Gi...

Share your story with us to help others affected by brain injury

An awfully big row: Giles Johnson

Giles Johnson

I'm thankful for the support Headway has given to my friend William

This month, Giles Johnson, 60, from Drayton, Somerset, will be setting off on a journey of a lifetime he's dubbed 'an awfully big row' in tribute to a friend who sustained a life-changing brain injury.

The epic challenge will see him row from Newfoundland, Canada, to Roundstone, Connemara, on the West Coast of Ireland, travelling more than 1700 nautical miles.

Giles, a psychotherapist, said: "I have always been interested in adventure and have previously taken part in several adventurous challenges.

We are planning a 30-35 day crossing dependent upon sea and weather conditions. Hopefully, the time of year will allow for a relatively calm and warm crossing."

Giles said: 

I'm thankful for the support Headway has given to my friend William. This row is in support of both him and Headway. We are self-funding the expedition with funds split between the charities.

William's wife, Rosie, said Headway was there to help in their time of need. 

“After Will's fall, I felt so incapacitated and didn’t feel able to undertake or complete any tasks” she said. 

“I had copious forms to fill in and was barely able to spell my own name at the time. Emma sat with me several times as we worked through everything. She was a huge comfort. I am thankful for all the ways that Headway helps people who, like me, are suddenly catapulted into such an unfamiliar world."

Giles, boat partner Matthew Ponsonby,  and their team are now busy preparing for their journey, which will present more than a few hurdles.

"We will, especially at the outset, face the challenges of adapting to life on board, other traffic, the weather, fatigue and the mental leap needed to ensure that we function as a team in sometimes difficult conditions," said Giles.

Everyday tasks become rather more tricky in the confines of a small boat! For example, going to the loo, cooking and looking after yourself can feel very trying during bad weather and whilst exhausted.

"We are very lucky to have as part of our team Charlie Pitcher, the MD of Rannoch Adventure. Charlie is an extremely experienced blue water sailor and a world record holder in various ocean rowing events. Charlie will be our land support, calling the weather and routing and there to help if and when technical issues arise. He is also the builder and designer of our wonderful craft 'Hurricane' - an R25 ocean-going rowing boat."

But despite the trials and tribulations of the 'awfully big row', Giles is looking forward to getting out on the water and a departure from the every day.

"The 'detox' from the modern world is profound. The satisfaction is for me in the 'task', the sense of being insignificant and the lack of choice that ensues," he said. "I feel that the more primitive and less used bits of me come to life."

Jen Murgatroyd, Director of Fundraising at Headway, added: “Giles and Matthew are such an inspiring duo.

Taking on this huge challenge in aid of some wonderful charities including Headway. This will be mentally and physically challenging and we’re incredibly grateful to them for choosing to support us. We rely on donations to be able to support brain injury survivors and their families.

I’m excited to follow Giles and Matthew as they take on the row across to Ireland and would encourage anyone who is inspired by them to get involved either by supporting their fundraising efforts through donating or by getting in touch to do their own fundraising for Headway, we’d love to have you on board!”

To join in and support this fundraiser, click here.


Share this page

Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

© Copyright Headway 2024  -  Site designed and developed by MEDIAmaker