Our reporter, Chloe Phillips, talks to the founder of the first of its kind women’s-only outdoor group.
After forming in July 2021, as covid lockdown restrictions lifted, Wild Wanderers outdoor adventure group has gone from strength to strength. Gaining both local and national recognition, raising money for charity and attracting thousands of members across the UK who all have a shared interest in outdoor activities including hiking, paddle boarding and camping.
“The group was formed organically, Melissa and I met online via a wild camping group, a few weeks later we planned a wild camp with others.” That’s how Emma-Kate Morgan, one of the founders of Wild Wanderers, describes the formation of the group. Emma-Kate and her friend Melissa Jones decided to start their own group which would eventually go on to gain over 35,000 members. “When Melissa and I went to Scotland in April 2021, we were posting all our camps and wild swims on social media and received a lot of comments from other women asking about finding adventure friends.” Emma-Kate also pinpoints social media sites such as Tik-Tok and Instagram, as the key to the group’s success and reason why so many women were attracted to it in its early days.
As the group gained momentum, volunteers began to help run Wild Wanderers via sub-groups in their own areas. They assist Emma-Kate and Melissa by helping to run social media pages and creating content to attract new members. They also give up their free time to help organise events for members which include wild swims, camps, paddle boarding, beach meets, hikes, weekends in the mountains, caving, canoeing and cliff-jumping.
Although the focus of the group is to encourage women to get outdoors and enjoy themselves, the group has a much deeper meaning for some of its members. “Many women have reached out to us and thanked us for creating the group. It is helping them with mental health barriers, making new friends, stepping outside their comfort zones. We are very inclusive and women from all walks of life feel like they have something to belong to.”
One member who has benefited from joining the group is Marita Thompson, 34, from Wigan. She is over a year into her recovery journey from addiction, after taking class A drug Heroin for over ten years. “In a year my life has completely transformed, sometimes I have to take a step back and think how has this happened, because a year ago the thought of a life like this was impossible.”
Marita helps to run the Greater Manchester sub-group of Wild Wanderers and told me about how the group has kept her on track in her recovery journey. “It has changed my life; it could be something so simple like going camping with people you’ve never met. Some of the people I have met I now class as lifelong friends and I think we are making a real difference, its healing me as well as helping other people which is perfect.”
As Marita looks back to life before Wild Wanderers, she told me about the steps she made to leave that life behind. “It’s the hardest thing I have done to come off it, I had to hit rock bottom, rock, rock, rock, rock bottom before I did anything about it.”
Emma-Kate explained to me how the group is now going further to help its members who are in need. “We applied to be a community interest company last year and we are in the process of applying for funding to help women who are fleeing domestic abuse and provide them with all the equipment and cover transport costs.”
Another thing Wild Wanders aims to do, is organise events to raise money for charity, although one of these events gained recognition for all the wrong reasons last year. The group decided to raise money for Womens Aid by scaling one of the Lake District’s highest mountains, Blencathra, kitted out in dresses and high heels. Comments on the groups social media hit out at the group for creating a risk to their own safety and wasting the time of mountain rescue teams if they were to get into difficulty. Emma-Kate explained her side of the story, “We were not putting ourselves in danger, those of us who took part in the event are all experienced hikers and we took spare shoes in our rucksacks.”
As Wild Wanderers continues to grow, Emma-Kate described what the future holds for the group and its members. “We have organised a festival for the summer, where groups from all over the UK can meet up and enjoy live music, guided meditation and lots more events.”
“I want to say thank you to all the amazing admins and everyone who has helped and is involved in making Wild Wanderers the safe, supportive and empowering community it is.”
For more information about the group, visit their website page here.