The Brits are cool with nudism, but only on beaches.

I had a wonderful time at a naked beach BBQ last weekend which would have changed my opinion of how the British view nudity, if it wasn’t for one bad tempered dog walker.

Sunday 6th was the start of a heatwave here in Britain and also happened to be the day a group of people who had met through the Cardiff naked bike ride and the Midsummer skinnydip had arranged on which to have a naked beach BBQ.  We had arranged to meet up at Falls Bay, on the Gower.  It is not a nudist beach, as there are no official nudist beaches within less than three hours drive from here.  However it is quite remote and usually fairly empty.

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However, because of the really hot weather, it seemed that nearly everyone had decided to head to the beach.  The roads were jam packed, the car park was full and the beach was surprisingly busy; not crowded, but far from empty.  About a dozen of us arrived at low tide, around 1.00, and there was a lot of beach to use.  We decided to go to the far end of the beach in order to be a bit out of the way and unobtrusive.  Like most nudists, the majority of us wanted to be unobtrusive, avoid causing offense and keep out of the way.  There was a family having a picnic in a nearby inlet but we were quite well away from most of the other beach users.

We stripped off, slapped on lots of sun screen, chatted and got to know those people we hadn’t yet met, as well as catching up with those we knew.  A few of us went swimming and we cooked up some food.  The nearby family were playing ball games nearby but didn’t seem to object to us being there.  As the sea came in a few more of us decided to go for a swim.  We then got a frisbee out and played with that.  As the tide had come in a bit, we had to move a bit further down the beach in order to play, and where well within sight of nearly everyone on the beach.  Nobody seemed to mind, and nobody said anything.

We then went for a swim and as there was a bit of surf some of the others did some body boarding.  Gradually those of us in the water drifted further along the beach.  Naked people were slashing in and out of the water in the middle of the bay and nobody seemed to mind. Some of the clothed beach goers came out to swim in the middle of our naked group.  we were just a group of people enjoying the sun and the sea and nobody seemed to be at all bothered that we were naked.

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The tide was still coming in, so we moved further along the beach.  It was now between 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  We kept out of the central beach are, but were pretty close to a group of young, early 20s, textile beach users and were a lot more visible to the rest of the beach.  At one point Andy said to the girls nearby “We’re not bothering you, are we?” to which she laughed and replied “No, not at all.”  They remained where they were, chatting away, completely unconcerned about the naked people nearby.  A young woman who had entered the beach from the east seemed concerned that she was cut off from that exit and asked me how to get off the beach.  She didn’t mind that the person she had chosen to ask for directions was naked.

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We remained there for an hour or so, sunbathing and swimming, but the tide was continuing to come in.  The high tide line was quite far up the beach and only a small section of the beach, near the cliff path down remains uncovered at high tide.  There was a clear spot at the top of the beach and Andy, being a bit more brazen than most of us, decided that we should move over there.  Speaking afterwards, a few of the guys said that they normally wouldn’t have placed themselves in such a conspicuous position.  We were right at the top of the beach and anyone leaving the beach was going to be coming past us.  Nobody said anything.  Perhaps they had got used to us being on the beach, perhaps they just didn’t want a scene, but I really don’t think they were bothered by us being there.

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Around 7.30 most of us dressed to leave, but as it was such a lovely day 6 of our group decided to stay and sleep on the beach.  On the way off the beach Nigel got talking to another group who were leaving the beach at the same time.  They were quite friendly and were asking where we were from and if we came here often.  His account suggested to me that they might have been interested in joining us, had our meetings been something regular.  The whole experience on the beach had left me feeling really good and thinking that the British as a whole really don’t mind nudity.

Since it was still hot and sunny I decided not to bother to dress for the 20 min walk back to the car park until, at least until we got a bit closer.  As we walked two of the others decided to also strip off for the coastal walk, since nobody was around.

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As we continued along we noticed a dog walker approaching.  There wasn’t time to cover up and we didn’t think he would be too bothered, so we kept going.  He looked at us and muttered “Well that’s a lovely sight. I hope my dog bites your bollocks off.  What the hell are you thinking?  I think you are all a bunch of bloody stupid plonkers.”

We decided to get dressed shortly after that.

We were doing nothing wrong.  He was the one whose behaviour was intended to cause alarm and distress, not us.

There had been one other incident that day.  The trail to the beach is down a steep, narrow, rocky, irregular trail.  Andy had decided to spend the whole day naked, and had driven over naked and walked to the beach naked.  Coming down the trail he had met a person climbing up.  The man had come right up to him and asked quite aggressively “Why are you dressed like that?”  He explained that he was going to join friends for a naturist beach BBQ, but the man just flatly said “No!” and continued to glower at him, so he covered up.

On the beach we had spent over six hours playing naked without incident, but on the coastal trail it was a different matter.

It seems to me that the British can accept and understand nudity at the beach.  You might want to strip off to get a good tan.  This makes sense to them.  You may want to cool off and have neglected to bring a costume.  This also makes sense to them.  It is when confronted with nudity in unexpected places that people take issue with it.

I think it is great that the British seem to be getting more relaxed about seeing nudity at the beach.  It is nudity in other places that causes concern.  This begs the question: Should we restrict nudist activity to beaches and designated areas, or should we continue to push the boundaries of what is accepted?  With nudist beaches being closed to nudists can we afford to be complacent?  However, pushing boundaries might end in arrest.  It is a question which I think each naturist needs to answer for themselves.

About Colin H

Ancient historian specialising in Greco-Roman siegecraft who also does 11th century reenactment. I am also a keen dancer and a nudist.
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