After all those months of being cooped up in lockdowns, it was a relief to be able to get out of the house and go somewhere, and we’d picked the perfect weekend for it. The day was sunny and hot, the sky a bright blue, and the water calm. We trekked to the naturist part of the beach, set up our little tent, and settled in.
At around 2pm, we joined a group of 35 or so fellow naturists for a dip in the sea. I’d been to other clothes-free events as a member of British Naturism (BN), but this one was special.
Maybe it was the (unusually for Britain!) fabulous weather, maybe it was the feeling of being on holiday despite being not far from home. Or maybe it was the sheer pleasure of skinny-dipping with a group of welcoming, like-minded nudies, men and women, in what felt like the most natural setting in the world.
Ask any naturist what’s so great about being naked and you’ll get a variety of answers.
It’s good for you! More and more people are realising the significant benefits nudity brings to mental, emotional and physical health. Shaking off your clothing is more than just peeling away layers of fabric.
It can also feel as though you’re removing your worries, stresses and, particularly, any hang-ups you have about your body. As a woman, I believe this is especially important for us, bound up as many of us are in negative body images and the demands society puts on us always to look “good".
Naturism also helps you challenge yourself and others. Social nudity is on the increase and especially so since the pandemic, according to British Naturism. People stuck at home decided to give it try, in their gardens, living rooms, wherever. Maybe they convinced friends, family and colleagues to join them.
At the start of the first lockdown, BN launched a series of online activities, including a weekly live forum, pub quizzes, coffee get-togethers and – of particular interest to me – fitness classes. I opted for a weekly yoga session, others chose aerobics or other activities. The Zoom sessions meant we could see the instructor as well as each other, and I suspect many people who hadn’t ever considered being naked in public got hooked on it then.
But, I hear you ask, is public nudity legal?
Yes, it is. There is no offence of “nudity” under the law in any part of the UK.
Despite that, naturism and naturists continue to face a range of significant challenges, says BN. First, legal ambiguity and confusion can arise.
Clear guidelines have been given to Scottish police officers to the effect that where somebody is simply naked in a public place, with no clear sexual motive or behaviour, and where there’s no disorderly conduct or intent to cause alarm or distress, no police action is needed.
Nonetheless, the false presumption is often held by police officers, the courts service and other civil authorities that someone who’s naked in a public place is up to no good, leading to naturists being wrongfully challenged, arrested and even prosecuted.
Secondly, there is still strong pressure from the media about what “beautiful” or “normal” bodies should look like. As a woman of a certain age, I can tell you that most people at naturism events, myself included, wouldn’t win any beauty contests! But the feeling of acceptance, of being at ease in one’s own body, is worth more than any contest title.
Another issue naturists may face is the suspicion that nudity per se is always sexual and harmful, particularly to children. To the contrary: naturist organisations generally encourage family groups to join, and a key BN campaign seeks to attract more women to the lifestyle. These are serious issues that BN and other naturist groups must – and do – address, but please don’t let them put you off.
If you’ve now decided to give naturism a try, you’ll want to know what activities are available around the UK for the birthday-suit bunch.
There are naturist beaches all around our beautiful coastline, including Aberlady in East Lothian, Ardeer in Ayrshire and Balmedie near Aberdeen.
There are over 100 naturist clubs across the UK that offer an easy and tranquil escape from the daily grind. They’re all different but they usually have well-tended grounds centred around a clubhouse, with facilities such as a swimming pool, sauna and children’s play area.
There are holidays, from simple camp sites to luxurious self-catering accommodation, from spas to B&Bs. And there are loads of events. British Naturism organises plenty of them throughout the year, and supports and participates in others.
Some are hosted in naturist locations but an increasing number take place at well-known public venues. Jupiter Artland Garden near Edinburgh, for example, is hosting a naturist evening on July 24.
There are week-long and weekend events, and day and evening activities. There are gardens and stately homes to wander through, boat trips (I’m taking one myself in Devon later this summer), art exhibitions, naked dining adventures… and the list goes on.
Naturally, as a BN member and volunteer, I want to plug the organisation. But my adventures in nudism didn’t begin with BN but with my local club, which meets for a swim in Chester on Saturday evenings.
If you’re thinking of trying naturism, reach out to your local club, to other naturists, to BN. You’ll find the community welcoming, friendly and helpful. After all, you have nothing to lose… but your clothes.