Women fear losing hundreds of pounds each as 'retreats' are suddenly cancelled

Scores of women fear they will be left out of pocket as trips planned through a Facebook group were suddenly cancelled.
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More than 5,000 people joined the Wild Women – Adventures With Soul Facebook group set up in 2021 by Marita Thompson, from Ashton, and came together for hikes, beach walks, wild swimming and other free events.

It proved to be so popular that sub-groups were set up around the country, with more than 30,000 members in total.

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Recently the group branched out to “retreats”, with women paying to go to the Lake District, Snowdon and other locations for activities with like-minded people.

Marita Thompson, front right, on an outing with members of Wild Women - Adventures With SoulMarita Thompson, front right, on an outing with members of Wild Women - Adventures With Soul
Marita Thompson, front right, on an outing with members of Wild Women - Adventures With Soul
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But the women have been disappointed with the announcement the trips have been cancelled and the group will close.

Fearing they will not get their money back, women have contacted their banks and reported what happened to the police and Action Fraud.

One woman from Ashton, who asked not to be named, said she had previously attended free events and met Ms Thompson several times.

Marita Thompson and Gail Charnock enjoy the great outdoorsMarita Thompson and Gail Charnock enjoy the great outdoors
Marita Thompson and Gail Charnock enjoy the great outdoors
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She said: “Everyone has been advised by the admin to ring the police. I have logged all mine with Action Fraud. I have paid £250, which is two trips for me and two for my friend.”

Gail Charnock, from Shevington, paid £65 for a retreat in Snowdonia, after previously attending smaller events organised by the group.

She said: “I paid her because it looked legit and I checked the place out too. She had done events previously that had gone well. So I transferred the money to her. I was confident that I would be going on that retreat, I had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the event.”

She added: "There are so many women that have been affected by this. Women who are vulnerable and have joined these groups and events to help them overcome personal crisis and ongoing issues.”

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Emma Walkden, from Newton, was an administrator for the group. She says she had concerns about what was happening and pushed for them to be made public.

Many women have contacted her about what happened and the impact it has had on their mental health.

She said: "One woman had to ring a crisis team. Other women have told me they feel sick and can’t function. It’s really affected these women.”

It is understood the situation came to light when a member searched online for the accommodation for a retreat to Eskdale, in the Lake District, and discovered it was still available to book. They contacted the owner and were told they had not had any dealings with the group.

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Members are now sharing their experiences on Facebook and WhatsApp, as they try to recoup their losses.

It is thought scores of women, possibly even hundreds, could have paid for the retreats, with thousands of pounds handed over.

The Wigan Post has made multiple attempts to contact Ms Thompson by phone, email and Facebook but has not received a response.

A message to one of the group’s administrators went unanswered and a request to join the group was declined, with a message stating: “The group is closing so not accepting members sorry.”

Greater Manchester Police said the matter had been referred to Action Fraud, but Action Fraud refused to comment without written permission from a complainant.

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