Nothing to hide! How I became a convert to naturism
- Credit: Laura Bill
When I was a kid, I remember someone pointing and laughing at a girl at our school - someone I always thought was really cool and fun - because 'her mum and dad walk around naked'.
That was my first introduction to naturism. And I remember thinking that it was a weird thing to criticise someone for.
I subsequently learned that there are special places where people go specifically to get naked together, because to stroll through The Maltings sans clothes would be against the law. And what's more there is nothing sexual about it.
So when the opportunity arose to visit British Naturism's Sunfolk facility in How Wood I thought I'd take the plunge.
You don't have to be a member of BN to visit Sunfolk, you can pay a one-off £15 fee bookable online.
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This is considerably cheaper than Center Parcs, right? And it's kind of similar but without the geese or deer.
After much pre-stripping nervousness, I drive down to the site and pull up in front of a massive metal gate to wait for someone let me in.
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Pulling up in the car park, I see some caravans under a couple of trees and a naked woman pottering about outside them.
I suddenly feel awkwardly over-dressed and at the same time a bit nervous: Why am I doing this?! What is my mum going to think of the pictures in the paper?! I'm sure this was never in the lifeplan she never actually created for me.
It's nicer than I expected. Really nice in fact. Lovely lush green lawns, wooded campsites and the club house that time forgot (it literally hasn't been changed since the '50s).
Someone is sitting in a conservatory at a table working on a laptop, a Diet Coke close at hand.
He's Sunfolk front man Mark Walsh, who told me why people should experience naturism: "There is nothing wrong with nudity and being naked doesn’t have to be sexual. It is great for the mind – the mental health and body positive aspect is priceless. It’s a wonderful community of like-minded respectful people from all walks of life."
But does he consider naturism necessary? "Adam and Eve probably said the same about clothes!" he laughed.
"Clothing is practical and even naturists do wear clothes – we just enjoy taking them off too, particularly as taboos and stigmas have been created about the human form.
"Naturism shouldn’t be necessary as nudity and nakedness should just be accepted in every walk of life in the same way it is in many tribes around the world. Sadly this is not the case so naturism has to be a thing!"
I procrastinate over doing the deed and start to run out of questions, which, if you know me, has literally never happened before.
Unable to think of any more flimsy excuses, I slip away to somewhere secluded and off comes the denim dress and saltwater sandals. I deliberately didn't wear loads of clothes just so it felt like less of a thing taking them off.
So the big reveal? Underwhelmingly normal. I mean, let's face it, it's not the first time I've taken my clothes off. Maybe in a public place but nakedness is a thing we are all used to. In bed. In the bath.
I walk across the grass and I feel about as self-conscious as I would if I had a bikini on. Except I don't.
It's surprisingly liberating, feeling the sun's warmth and a gentle breeze on my bare skin.
I spend an hour slipping between the beautiful heated pool, outdoor hot tub and sauna. What reservations I had about being exposed are forgotten as I relax into the experience, feeling almost euphoric about how liberating it is, not having to worry about wearing the right outfit or even my personal reservations about body image.
When I eventually resign myself to getting dressed again it's with a surprising degree of reluctance. Despite all my pre-conceptions and nervousness about actually getting my kit off in front of complete strangers I'm definitely a convert, and will be taking Mark up on his invitation of a return visit.
Find out more about Sunfolk at http://www.sun-folk.org.uk/