In the 1980s and 1990s when I was a young father with two young children and experimenting with naturism we used to spend seaside holidays in Sussex at Camber, staying at Rye and commuting by car almost daily to the beach. At that time naturism was (and I assume still is) practised discreetly in the dunes away from the main centre of beach holiday activity westwards towards the mouth of the River Rother where it enters the sea. Loaded with picnic lunches and games equipment for the children we would make our way as far as I would dare to drag the reluctant family to find a sheltered spot at the seaward side of the dunes, hopefully protected from the stiff breeze that can blow in form the English Channel along this stretch. Once parked we would settle for the day with hopefully not too much sand infiltrated into our sandwiches when it came to lunch. Not being one for sunbathing I preferred being active with the children on the sand at low tide playing cricket, throwing frisbees, building sandcastles. How to square that with my wish also to be naked and the prevalence at that site for dunes only naturism ?
Well, I simply didn’t try to square it. I could see no reason for not being nude on the open beach; after all it was relatively quiet, the main throng of humanity at this hugely popular seaside resort being a few hundred yards away to the east. Yes, people would walk by on a stroll out to the river mouth and back but nothing ever was said. My one regret was that my wife and children never showed any inclination to join me, the two youngsters taking their mother’s side with rigid predictability. The children did not express any anxiety about my being naked though and in public view.
On the opposite western side of the river a road leads down to the sea from Rye Harbour Village. This was a gated non-public road but at the seaward end of it a good view may be had of the dune system at Camber and the beach. Not infrequently police vehicles used to park at the end of this road overlooking the dunes and beach no doubt scanning the scene for any untoward behaviour over on the Eastern side of the river. I am quite sure this had nothing to do with the potential presence of nudists, of course ! I nearly fell foul of this surveillance one afternoon. I has already noted the unmarked police vehicle. It was low tide and I was on the sands with my family, for once actually wearing a piece of clothing which I no longer possess, along with pyjamas, called swimming trunks. I returned to where we had pitched camp that day in the dunes to get a camera that I needed to take photos of the two children at the edge of the waves. Because of uncertainty about exactly where our things were I didn’t go directly up the beach to reach them but approached from the east over the dunes themselves, looking around to locate them and duly collected the camera. In what seemed like no time at all I was approached by a police officer (no doubt having been radioed from across the river) from over the dunes saying that I had taken something from someone’s bag. There was something of a palaver to explain that it was my own bag and my own camera that I had filched. I am pleased to say that this type of police surveillance has been discontinued here, hopefully as a result of naturists being considered to be no threat to good order !
One thing I remember distinctly though was my desire to get going to the beach each morning. With many summer days in Britain whenever high pressure was not sitting directly over the country, there is the tendency for the days to start off dry and sunny but for the cloud to build up limiting the sunshine later on. In actual fact Camber itself habitually hung on to the sunshine longer than inland where one could see banks of cloud building up strongly over the Isle of Oxney. Few seemed to be the days however which were forecasted to have unbroken sunshine. So with mouths to be fed for breakfast, picnics to be prepared and towels and games equipment to be got ready for transportation and then the hike out from the cars to “our” part of the beach and the mornings rapidly disappeared; on those mornings too on which the weekly shop had to be done (we rented a self-catering holiday cottage for our three week annual break), by the time we eventually “pitched camp” on the beach, it was already high noon and the bulk of the day’s allocation of sunshine might have been lost.
I obviously felt it was necessary for the enjoyment of naturism to have full-on sun; almost as if in sunshine naturism was credible and acceptable and once the sun vanished behind clouds, it was not so. This of course was entirely false but I did not learn that until later. Paradoxically not being one to lay about roasting in hot sunshine, I should have realised that it is quite possible, indeed desirable, to bask in the warmth, even if the sun was not out. Naturism is not an activity dependent upon the visibility of our nearest star. Indeed in terms of protection from the harmful effects of an excess of sunshine, air bathing is much to be preferred and better for us. Besides which I have never really quite got on with beaches; pebbly ones are difficult to walk on (detracting somewhat from the gracefulness of movement of naked bodies!) while getting sand in your sandwiches on even just a slightly breezy day is not exactly heaven either.
The Naturist Ramblers Club holds nude walks throughout the summer months. Dates are arbitrarily arranged but inevitably walks will occasionally coincide with the odd day of cold rain even at the height of summer. Some of you will remember a particular August day in an otherwise glorious recent summer where the wind blew gustily on the top of the South Downs and rain horizontally assaulted a hapless group of naked walkers who soon forced to resort to waterproofs. By contrast if the sun shines strongly on a mid-winter’s day and the wind is calm an enjoyable naked walk can be experienced through the lying snow. I know of someone who has walked so in temperatures of minus one degree Celsius though it is perhaps not wise in such circumstances to actually stop to enjoy a picnic lunch.
However although many flock abroad to practice naturism in the more reliable sunshine of the Mediterranean region and would not even dream perhaps of going naked at home, sun is hardly a pre-requisite for the enjoyment of the naked state. A degree of warmth however is. Long gone are the days when ice would form on the windows of houses and a great many of us benefit from central heating allowing easy naturism within the home. As I feel relaxed and less stressed when nude, normal household chores become much less of a drag when done nude, chores such as hoovering, washing up, painting and decorating, making the beds, cooking. Remember though when cooking in the nude that not much exists between you and hot greasy splashes ! You may need an apron and one other thing, you may stub your toe on the legs of pieces of furniture which leap out to ensnare you from time to time ! Then when the summer does eventually arrive get out into your garden and some of those tiresome but necessary horticultural tasks will seem to go with a bit more of a swing.
Of course for us social naturists being able to meet in person is a crucial part of our raison d’etre. Walks, art gallery visits, badminton, pub meals are of course not dependent on the appearance of the sun. We have had to hold fire on this sort of activity for a whole year now but once we are released from the lockdowns and restrictions we will of course be raring to go again and hopefully struggling business will be even keener to accommodate naturists for events.
During the lockdown we have become more inventive about our practice of naturism. We may only be able to meet socially online but we can meet fellow-naturists in many fora in pandemic days. A certain percentage of people having to work from home do so naked. Take care though if you find yourself attending many Zoom meetings – quite a number of them actually do (unfortunately) expect the participants to be wearing clothes. More than once I have had to pull myself up short remembering just in time that the Zoom meeting I am about to join is not a naturist one !