Interview With Emma Frampton | How Adventure Queens Is Breaking Down Barriers

The co-founder of not-for-profit adventure community on removing obstacles and changing mindsets

Merrell, the leading outdoor footwear brand, has partnered with Emma Frampton to tell the story of how the Adventure Queens community has inspired women to get into the outdoors.

We live in a time where barriers seem to be going up just as much as they’re coming down – where for every bit of forward-thinking progress made in society there’s a wall (literally in some cases) going up and dividing us from one another somewhere else. It’s all very much a case of one step forward, one step backwards – sometimes two step backwards – at the moment. With that in mind then, let’s be thankful for voluntary organisations like Adventure Queens – a positive force for change in a world that’s sometimes guilty of losing sight of itself.

Founded by Anna McNuff and Emma Frampton, Adventure Queens is a UK-based, not-for-profit, adventure community aimed at removing the obstacles that prevent women from heading off on adventures in the outdoors.

Our very own Staff Writer Jordan Tiernan sat down for a chat with Emma, who’s partnered with Merrell as part of their mission to tell inspiring stories from across trails across the UK, to find out more about her experiences with the organisation and her belief in the value of connecting with one another through nature.

What is Adventure Queens? How was it started? And what are you looking to achieve with it?

So, we are a women’s adventure community. And ultimately we’re aiming to smash down the barriers preventing women from getting into the outdoors. We started two years ago, in summer 2017, when we put a message out on social media asking if anyone wanted to come wild camping with us.

We got a huge response, which was when we realised that people wanted more access to stuff like this. At the time there was no real communities out there so me and co-founder Anna McNuff started Adventure Queens. And, to be perfectly honest, at the time we had no idea what it would become but we recognised there was a need out there – like even if we could just help a few women, that would still be absolutely amazing.

“We’re aiming to smash down the barriers preventing women from getting into the outdoors”

But it took off more than we thought it might do. We started by organising a couple of wild camping events – so one was ‘Wild Night Out’ in 2017 and then the second one was for Autumn Equinox and that was volunteers taking out small groups of people for wild camping experiences all across the UK.

We then eventually moved on to creating local groups led by volunteers – meaning like-minded people could connect with each other and head out any time.

Credit: Merrell

How many people signed up to those first events?

Ah, god. I should know this. I should know this. From memory, it was between 50 and 70 odd people. There was a lot of people who’d never been wild camping before. And it was them turning up to meet a complete group of strangers. I took a group out in the Chilterns and I still remember that as my friend said to me beforehand: “Are you just about to go and meet a group of people at the train station that you’ve literally never met before?”

We hiked up the hill, had dinner, and then shared a night under the stars together. It was really lovely. I found it amazing how quickly we connected with each other over shared experiences.

Credit: Merrell

What’s Adventure Queens grown to today?

Yeah, so we have a total of over 12,000 people now. Fair to say it’s grown a bit from where we started at the very beginning. What we’ve now got, in terms of how people can get involved, is a main Facebook group and from there they can join a local group. There’s 29 of these local groups in the UK and a couple of oversea ones as well – one in France, one in New Zealand. The local groups in the UK are based everywhere from Cornwall right on up to Scotland. And again, these are a great way for people to meet up for an adventure in an area close to them.

“There’s no right or no wrong, no level you need to be at to be a part of this”

There’s our Instagram channel. We’ve been hosting Insta events, and back to basics guides to camping out – encouraging those to happen at a local level as well.

Our focus though is very much on continuing to help people get outdoors, to keep breaking down those barriers, keep helping to connect people with each other and with the outdoors. We’re also at a place where we’re reminding people that what we do is very much a personal journey. Like when people sign up to a group, there’s always going to be a bit of trepidation – a nervousness about not being good enough, but we want to be a welcoming community. There’s no right or no wrong, no level you need to be at to be a part of this. Anything in the outdoors can be so personal.

Do you think being afraid is the biggest barrier for people looking to get into the outdoors? 

It’s all about mindset. There’s obviously some practicality issues in terms of equipment and money and time, but those are issues that can be resolved with a bit of ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ – by borrowing equipment off people, going on adventures closer to the front door. If you’ve got kids, asking your partner or a friend to look after them. They’re difficult issues but they can be overcome.

“Mindset is the biggest obstacle because it’s a funny old beast that can be harder to control”

But yes, I think mindset is the biggest obstacle because it’s a funny old beast that can be harder to control. It needs to be reminded of what we’re capable of. I think especially when you’re starting out on your first adventure, the excitement and the nerves of it all can be a lot to deal with. I know Anna [McNuff], who’s a professional adventurer, still gets that every time but the more you get out of your comfort zone the more you begin to understand that the mind stuff is all part of the journey.

Credit: Merrell

Do you think being part of a community, like Adventure Queens, helps women to feel braver in the outdoors?

Yeah, definitely. When you’re part of a group, when you’re surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, it’s huge. They can help you when you’re questioning yourself over whether you can even do it, they can reassure you about what you can achieve, and can encourage you to keep going. All that can be huge, especially if you don’t have a like-minded group around you already. And also, just being able to tap into something and meet people to go on adventures with.

“When you’re part of a group, when you’re surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, it’s huge”

Generally, we have people coming from two different backgrounds. There’s the ones who have grown up in the outdoors, are super confident, know what they’re doing, but just don’t have people in their lives who are up for going out and doing cool adventures. These people also want to help others by encouraging them, and by passing on knowledge. That’s something which is really lovely to see.

And then there’s the other group. People who haven’t grown up in the outdoors, or maybe they did when they were younger but then life got in the way a bit. Or yes, people who haven’t really done any outdoorsy stuff before but are looking to find a way of getting into it. For those people, in particular, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Communities like Adventure Queens are great for them because it can provide them with information but also a network of people for them to get out there and do stuff with.

Credit: Merrell

What advice would you give to women looking to get into, say, wild camping?

There’s so many different things you can do out there but I’d say it’s really important to listen to your inner voice. Say you’re curious about something, you’re eager to try it out, but there’s a bit of anxiousness there just because it scares you a bit, it might be a bit uncomfortable, and you haven’t done it before. Or is it more a case of being something that doesn’t actually feel like you but you feel like you should try it out because loads of other people are doing it?

“There’s so many different things you can do out there but I’d say it’s really important to listen to your inner voice”

If it’s the last one then go and try out whatever feels true to you, rather than just doing something because other people are doing it. If you are genuinely curious about wild camping though but not comfortable with going on your own, you can either start out by camping in your garden if you’ve got one, or go to a wilderness site like Chancery Woods near Guildford – there’s similar sites around the country – or grab a friend and go together. This first experience, however you do it, will help to give you the confidence to go and do it on your own.

Whatever you do though, whether it’s an overnight hike, an adventure with your bike, or something else, it’s about doing what feels right for you.

Credit: Merrell

Have there ever been any times when you yourself have overcome a moment where you yourself felt scared or threatened in the outdoors?

I wouldn’t say I’ve had loads of scary moments, but I think there’s been moments when I’ve questioned whether I could do it. Moments when I’m on my own, there’s nobody around, something’s happened to my bike, or I’ve been up some frigging mountain again losing the plot slightly. I’ve had multiple moments like that.

I’ve done a few trips in South America and the biggest thing that scared me there was wild dogs. I love dogs but wild dogs freak me.

“And it gets worse when I see a guy come round the corner with a machete”

I’ve also had a couple of comical moments. At the time they happened, my heart skipped a bit but they were kind of more comical than scary. I was going through Chile, about three or four years ago, and there was this incident where I’d fallen off my bike and hurt my hand. I couldn’t lean properly on my handlebars, and I definitely couldn’t change gears.

I was with a friend and we’d parked up out of site behind a fence for the night, and was trying to pack up our stuff early before cracking on despite my injured hand and anyway next thing we know we’ve heard a car door. We were eating breakfast but our tent was still well and truly up so there’s no way we could quickly get it down in the space of like 30 seconds. Next thing, we hear footsteps. And, at this point, my heart is just racing. And it gets worse when I see a guy come round the corner with a machete. And yeah, I just had this moment where I was like “Oh my god. What the heck.” And this guy, he turns around he’s like “Hola!” And yeah, it turns out he’s just some guy taking his dog for a walk. He didn’t care about what he doing, said good morning to us and that was that. No problem.

Emma is wearing the Merrell Siren 3 – available at Cotswold Outdoor.

For more information on Merrell and Adventure Queens, head to their websites.

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