It seems paradoxical to be writing this article in the cold gloom of mid-December, but it may also seem paradoxical that the over-arching organisation of British naturists, called simply British Naturism (BN), has seen a very sharp rise in the number of people wishing to become members this year. This in spite of the present pandemic crisis when our opportunities for getting out and meeting others has been restricted,
In return BN has offered much in the way of virtual events to these new (and existing) members from discussion groups and virtual pub evenings to yoga classes. This reflects the recent widening of horizons that have been available to naturists living in the UK. Before we go any further you have not misread the word as “naturalists”; indeed it is “naturists” who believe in a clothes-free lifestyle and meet socially with others of like mind.
Historically naturism has been practised in the home, within the high-fenced confines of sun clubs (which are like social clubs) or at certain “official” or “unofficial” naturist beaches, that are often difficult to access. That nudity in public places is illegal is a common if understandable misconception.
It never has been illegal but now with the legal position clearer and recent police guidance on how to deal with any public complaints clarified we may expect naturism to be met with more frequently. After all naturists like to do all the things other people like to do, such as taking a country walk.
Good for physical and mental health
Going without clothing has been shown to have a beneficial effect on both physical and mental health. For example, sensible moderate exposure to sunlight enhances the creation of much-needed vitamin D on the skin. Nudity also helps to relieve stress and anxiety and even anger, particularly necessary in the restrictive world of 2020. Perhaps this is why there has been an increase in people going nude at home and in their gardens this year.
So when we have regained “normality” which hopefully will be during the first half of next year what opportunities will be open to naturists? East Sussex Naturists is a loose social group of naturists who, until 2020 closed most things down, were arranging visits to local art galleries, pub meals, yoga classes, regular weekly swims at local facilities, countryside walks and cycle rides in Kent and Sussex, ten-pin bowling and more – yes, and all without wearing clothes!
There is World Naked Gardening Day in May each year and World Naked Bike Rides, framed as protests to demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists and our dependence on fossil fuels, are popular events in many cities worldwide, including, in the UK, London, Brighton and Folkestone each year. People will line the streets on these occasions, cheering on the participants showing that there is a great deal of goodwill towards naturists out there.
BN is seeking and gaining a higher profile in the country; television studio interviews have taken place, and the organisation was invited to submit written evidence to a Commons Select committee (Women and Equalities) on “Changing the Perfect Picture: An Enquiry into Body Image” which has been gathering information from people and organisations on what causes poor body image and the impact of advertising, social media and government policy.
A liberating experience
Undoubtedly poor body image is one reason why people do not participate in naturist activities. This is much accentuated by the images in magazines and on the internet which also seeks randomly to curb images of nakedness posted on line. There are many people around however who have bravely disrobed in the presence of others and found it a liberating experience; they have also discovered that there is no such thing as the perfect body, that people come in all shapes and sizes and, in the company of such people showing imperfections, they immediately begin to feel much happier with their own.
Major UK charities have recently begun to take naturism on board. There was to be a sponsored naked walk this June organised by local naturists in conjunction with British Naturism and the British Heart Foundation around the grounds of Painshill Park near Cobham in Surrey. This is now rescheduled for July 3 2021. Members of the public are invited to join the walk which will be open to all those over 18.
If you have never walked in the great British countryside before then why not give it a try and assist research into heart disease? And don’t worry, there will be plenty of naturists around from the car park onwards to help and support and encourage. If you want to find out more about The Naked Heart Walk or about any of the activities of East Sussex Naturists please feel free to email me at ESNaturists@gmail.com.
Image Credits: Philip Baker .