The human desire to conform is very strong. It takes but a little time for any human activity to become fashionable for there to develop a uniform to go with it which every participant if he or she wishes to be considered “in the club” must accept. Thus for example cycling has become an increasingly popular pastime but to be considered a “proper” cyclist you must cover yourself in highly colourful lycra, have the right sort of bike and associated accessories. Indeed all sporting activities have their dress codes whether you be participating as an professional or an amateur. In social activities in general certain ways of dressing are expected – the posh golf club dinner, the masonic lodge meeting, the pupils going to school, the business day, the whole scenario merely emphasised by the occasional days in which one is permitted to “dress down”.
Naturists too are imbued with the same desire for conformity, or are they ? Their idea of uniform is simply the lack of it. The lack of uniform it is said disables naturists from judging other (naturists) by outward appearances such as clothing which leads to easier, more friendly and less stilted conversation.
Walking is another human activity in which uniformity is encouraged and in which numerous magazines on the subject concur. Again clothing must be of a certain kind and usually involves rather a lot of it because you never know what the British weather is going to suddenly throw at you even during a summer heatwave. Boots must be of a certain stoutness, headwear, gloves, waterproofs and so on. Perhaps the most sensible suggestion is that you take plenty of fluid with you on a hike. So you are well away, provided of course that under the weight of all that clothing and a full rucksack to hoist on to your back you can actually take forward steps in the right direction !
With all these dress codes and fashionistas about, it is perhaps not too surprising that it is quite rare to meet a naturist in a public setting such as walking in the Great British countryside. So how should a naturist deport himself/herself when meeting a fellow human in the depths of the country ?
The first thing to say is to behave quite naturally just as if you are clothed and meeting another clothed walker. Smile and give a friendly greeting and move on. Do not be the first to look as if you want to have a conversation – that must come from your textile but if they want to chat, you chat and hopefully bring the conversation round to the delights of walking unencumbered by clothes. Do not on seeing your path soon to cross that of another walker who happens to be dressed attempt to hurriedly cover certain parts of you to maintain a degree of dignity. It is highly embarrassing for everyone concerned and suggests to people that you think you are doing something wrong and you are attempting to conceal it. Because remember, in case you have forgotten, that nudity of itself is not illegal in the UK. You have to be doing something deemed sexual within that nudity to cause the authorities to follow it up.
It is best perhaps to avoid places which are popular with walkers. You will still meet people, perhaps unexpectedly as you round a corner in some block of woodland but fewer of them and with that less of a chance of meeting with anyone hostile to your preferred style of walking. For indeed the vast majority of people we encounter on our walks are either quite friendly, in some cases, admiring our “bravery” or simply indifferent passing by in an embarrassed silence; very few are downright hostile but it is as well to be aware that not everyone possesses a sunny disposition towards naturists. Talking of sunshine it is during periods of warm sunny weather that the reactions of the public are at their best – you may be taken for a deranged eccentric if encountered in the buff on the crest of the south downs in the teeth of a howling gale with horizontally driving rain even it if is only August !
The rules of the Naturist Ramblers Club. echoed by Stark Trekkers, does have a number of provisos however, good sensible points showing that naturists do not want to “take a mile” if “given an inch”; the “inch” being the clarification of the law on public nudity issued as police guidance in 2018. Thus we do not seek to walk along roads in the nude since we could easily be accused of exhibitionism as well as being likely to bring about a serious RTA, through working farms or near where children are likely to be present. Of course one might come across a group of children with a teacher on some sort of field trip in the countryside. In such cases we would indeed “cover up”.
The children issue is indeed a difficult and complex one. The acceptance of the naked body can be arguably considered part of a child’s education but a group of nude walkers in the heart of the Sussex countryside may not be the best demonstration of that particular biology lesson. Children are often used as excuses for those who are virulently anti-nudist. “I wouldn’t want my child to see you looking like that”, “it’s a good thing I don’t have my young daughter with me !” In a normal family busying and steaming themselves around the house it would be very strange indeed for the children not to have observed a parent at some time or other in the naked state and if they have not then the parents must have been being very careful to ensure that it didn’t happen (locks on bathroom doors, etc.). But I suppose that the age-old equating of nudity with sexual activity is responsible here. For the most part children are curious about the naked body, not traumatised by it and if they are traumatised I wonder if that is saying anything about their home life ? Still for the most part parents accompanying their children do not wish them to see naked people walking in the fields and that is something we have to live with until times are even more enlightened.
But attitudes can vary. On the same World Naked Bike Ride I saw at one time a father standing with his children cheering us all on with great energy. A few minutes later a lady walking her grandson was videoing us with her phone in the left hand while the right hand was busy covering the eyes of the little boy ! Double standards, or what ?
So if going out for a nude walk in the countryside the thing to remember is “be confident’” for you have just as much right in your uniform as anyone else has in theirs. You are perhaps more vulnerable if rambling alone so walk in twos or more if at all possible but don’t let that put you off walking alone if you feel you can cope with the unexpected. Above all enjoy the breeze and the sun on your naked skin and revel in the delights of rambling through the huge diversity that the British countryside has to offer. Uniform is not the preserve of the clothed community – naturist ramblers speak euphemistically of “changing into club uniform” when the time comes to strip off on a naked walk !