Naked truth behind St Albans' naturist village
The affluent area of St Albans is famed for its history and culture - but nestled just outside lies a legacy of a different kind.
Spielplatz Naturist Club has called Lye Lane in Bricket Wood home for more than 85 years, earning it a reputation across the globe and more recently making it the subject of a More 4 documentary.
The residential village and naturist business is well known among fellow nudists but may well be a mystery to many nearby ‘textiles’- a name given to those who choose to live their life fully clothed.
With decades of history under its belt, Spielplatz harnesses what it means to be a naturist but misconceptions about the group are still rife, especially after their starring role in the prime time documentary The Naked Village.
So, when the Herts Advertiser pulled up to the club on a sunny day to speak to Beverly Kelly, granddaughter to the founder, our first surprise came when we realised nobody was actually naked.
Beverley explained: “It’s rare [that anyone is naked in the winter]. You’ll see pictures in naturist magazines of people in the snow and that’s usually a bit of fun. I like to keep my clothes on.”
Beverly was born into the naturist village; her grandfather Charles McCaskey helped found the club in 1929.
She grew up in the community with other naturist families, something which she says is now rare.
She said: “When I was a child there were at least 10 of us here and then all the other children of the members who came. Times have changed, attitudes have changed.”
Despite the drop in family membership, Beverly said they have people visit from all walks of life, not that it matters to the members.
She went on: “By the time you meet them, they’ve parked their car, so you can’t see what kind of car they drive, they don’t have clothes on any more so everyone is the same. They’re a blank slate.”
But the open mindset of Spielplatz can often attract the wrong kind of attention, which is certainly not welcomed.
Beverly said: “People think that as soon as people come in and take their clothes off they’re having sex in the bushes and any place they can.
“We’ve had incidents where some people have actually stripped off and walked around the grounds clearly over-excited and then we’ve had to say ‘excuse me, but you need to leave now, please go, get dressed, and leave’.
“We are very much a family club, not that there’s children here necessarily, but what we mean when we say that is that there’s a clean reputation.
“Some clubs have a reputation of being swingers; we’ve never had that feel here.”
It was such misconceptions that disappointed the group following the broadcast of the More 4 documentary in November last year.
Beverly added: “A load of us tenants watched it in the club house and thought ‘oh, gosh, we never expected it to be like that’, and were very disappointed.”
She referred to the accusation that there was a pressure to sell following perseverance from property developers.
“If we made it clear that we were selling, we wouldn’t have a problem, but we’ve not been approached.”
The more serious allegation came when a conversation, which saw a director asking someone to leave because they were not naked, was taken out of context.
She said: “They wanted to film some of the naturists dancing with glow paint on and they just wanted those people in there, so she was asked to leave just for that scene. It wasn’t made to look like that.”
Beverly said there was no pressure to be naked at the club as long as other members did not feel uncomfortable.
“We get some people who just want a peep show, who come in and will just watch us swim. We don’t allow that.”
But most people do not have a problem stripping off.
She added: “I had a friend come in once, somebody I knew through my daughter’s pre-school. She came in with her children and I told her I would take her children in the pool if she wasn’t happy about stripping off.
“The next thing I knew she had taken all her clothes off. She said she felt really strange because she was the only one with anything on.
“People should know that being naked doesn’t necessarily make people think of sex. The two are not connected here.
“One doesn’t make you think of the other; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.”