Meet the Worldies

by Laura Storey


Being in nature and staying active is excellent for our physical and mental health, but venturing into the wilderness alone can be daunting. That’s where Worldies come in. Across the country, women are satisfying their thirst for adventure together, organising walks, campouts, forest raves, wild swimming, and more!

It’s not just for seasoned adventurers with miles of experience or top-notch ultralight camping gear; it’s also for beginners taking their first steps into the wild. With borrowable equipment and a supportive community, Worldies empower women to achieve anything they set their mind to.

Claire Johnson from Colne, a director of Worldies along with Debbie Dwyer, explains how the organisation started: “Emer-jay Van-gills, our founder, had been part of a few other women’s groups and felt they sometimes lacked inclusivity. She posted on Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to meet up for a walk, and it all started from there.”

Since its inception two years ago, the group has flourished, amassing over 8,000 members. The group recently embarked on an incredible 500-mile journey along Scotland’s breathtaking coastline. “We welcome women of all ages and backgrounds,” says Claire. “For example, in Scotland, we had a 71-year-old lady join us.”

“You see women arrive shy and leave brimming with confidence. The retreats are life-changing.”

One of the newer members, Kayla, shares her transformative experience: “I attended a Worldies retreat at Rookhow in the Lake District. It felt like home. Since then, I’ve only had two weekends this entire year without Worldies!”

The retreats are particularly impactful. Rookhow offers workshops in bushcraft, outdoor cooking, archery, and more, alongside yoga and sound baths. “The weekend includes accommodation, food, and activities for just £40, making it accessible to all,” Claire highlights. “At Rookhow, you see women arrive shy and leave on Sunday, brimming with confidence. The retreats are life-changing.”

One of the standout experiences for Kayla was the recent Scotland road trip. “Eight days together with the Worldies – I’ve never done anything like that in my entire life. Travelling around Scotland, especially with Claire, who I was in the van with for a lot of it, created so many memories. We did a wild swim, and I was doubting myself the entire day, thinking I couldn’t do it. But with Claire’s encouragement, I pushed through, and it was incredible.”

Worldies became a community interest company a year ago, facilitating connections with professional services, including domestic violence charities. Claire emphasises their responsibility: “We realised we needed resources in place for the diverse women we meet, including those facing domestic violence.”

The group receives funding from Bric, part of the Red Rose Community, enabling them to provide essential equipment. “We have a lending library for those who need gear like tents, hiking boots, and waterproofs,” says Claire. “No woman should feel she can’t participate due to financial constraints.”

Claire finds the most rewarding part of Worldies to be witnessing the growth in the women who join. “On our first Scotland trip, some women didn’t know how to pitch a tent or were scared of the water. By the end, they were helping each other and had gained so many skills. They return home calmer, happier, and more confident.”

Inclusivity is at the heart of Worldies. The organisation has groups specifically for women experiencing domestic violence and those who are alcohol and substance-free. They even have men’s groups called World-Hes. This inclusivity ensures that everyone feels welcome and supported.

“It’s about taking time for yourself, recharging mental health, and reconnecting,” Claire explains. The campfire chats are a cherished aspect of Worldies. Claire describes how, during these moments, different women share their experiences, offering support and advice to each other. “Around the campfire, you see everyone from a woman in recovery to a high-powered professional sharing stories and advice. Everyone is equal.”

“It’s about taking time for yourself, recharging mental health and reconnecting.”

New members often express regret for not joining sooner. “We see them commenting on our pages, and once they muster the courage to attend their first event, they’re hooked,” Claire says. “They become part of our community for life.”

Kayla’s experience mirrors that of many Worldies members. “I found that Worldies felt more inclusive. Because I’m quite overweight, I struggle with walks. I always felt like maybe I shouldn’t do certain events because I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I’m not the fittest. But with Worldies, I’ve always been supported and told, ‘Oh, no, you can do this. We’ll help you. You won’t be left behind.’”

The inclusive nature of Worldies means that women of all fitness levels, backgrounds, and ages can participate without feeling left out or judged. This has created a strong sense of community and belonging among the members.

Worldies is not just about physical activities and outdoor adventures; it’s also about mental well-being and personal growth. The retreats and activities are designed to help women take a break from their everyday roles and responsibilities and focus on themselves.

“For women, I think we spend a lot of time being mum, sister, daughter. We’ve got so many labels,” Claire explains. “And it’s just to be able to take time out for themselves, for ourselves.”

Ultimately, Worldies is about creating a supportive, inclusive, and empowering community for women to explore, connect, and grow. Whether it’s through a weekend retreat in the Lake District, a wild swim in Scotland, or a campfire chat under the stars, the group offers a unique and transformative experience for women of all backgrounds.

Worldies continues to grow and evolve, bringing together women from all walks of life to share in the joy of the outdoors and the strength of community. Through shared adventures, supportive environments, and the power of connection, Worldies is changing lives, one wild experience at a time.

ColneLife July/Aug 24