-Beatrice Berry, 27, a warehouse operative based in Hertfordshire
Beatrice Berry, 27, a warehouse operative based in Hertfordshire, is representative of a new generation of naturists who prefer naturist social media to traditional in-person social clubs, and small-group activities, such as naked trekking with clothed friends. It’s a looser form of public nakedness that’s sometimes described as “free-range naturism”.
“I’m an introvert at heart, so I’m quite wary about who I get involved with in any aspect of life,” she says. Her timidity doesn’t extend to Instagram, where, as @beatriceelizabethberry, she greets her 43,000 followers with her naturist portraits, conquering the summit of Pen Y Fan in Wales, naked and peeking through the windows of a red phone box, and striding about unclothed in various sun-dappled woodlands.
Berry discovered naturism at the same time as millennial body-positivity discourses and uses it to heal her own mental health and body-image issues. “I can’t be arsed to go to the gym to get a six-pack or whatever,” she says, “and honestly I really don’t think any of that stuff is healthy. It’s ‘Here I am, with my clothes off, take me as you find me.’” She explains that she always travels with a sarong to hand for an impromptu cover-up. “Saying that, I think it is good, in a way, for families with kids to encounter me, just this normal-looking naked woman walking in the woods.”
Naked festivals such as The Naturist Foundation’s Party in the Stark (held at their holiday park in Kent) and Nudefest at Thorney Lakes in Somerset, where hundreds of naturists will gather for naked yoga, axe-throwing and naturist trips to the East Somerset Railway, cater to a generation of youthful and less committed naturists, as do charity events such as World Naked Bike Ride and Naked Run. For some, these events might be a stepping stone to naturism as a way of life.
“You might take part in a charity skinnydip and realise it is actually rather wonderful to swim naked and surprisingly natural to be naked around other people,” Rouse says. “Young naturists are less club-centred, but also much more public about their naturism and I think that’s OK: social movements have to move forward or they stultify,” he adds.
Berry and her boyfriend hope to launch a series of small-scale events and overseas holidays that are inclusive of bodies with tattoos and piercings, which can, they say, be disapproved of on the traditional naturism scene. “It can be conservative like that and it does put my generation off.”
Free-range naturism, too, has its drawbacks, says David Salisbury, 47 and a gay naturist of Asian British heritage. “Some naturists, particularly women naturists, struggle to feel safe in an uncontrolled environment, so the traditional clubs offer a safe space where diversity can flourish away from the gawkers that you can find at nudist beaches,” he says. Sun clubs often have strict rules that have been set down for decades. At other venues, an unspoken etiquette holds sway, says Fiona Discombe, naturist travel blogger and manager of Sussex naturist retreat Max’s Garden. “When you’re talking to people, you have to talk to their faces rather than their breasts or bits,” she says, “and that can take effort at first. There’s no videoing or taking photos: phones are left at the door.”
Partly, of course, the fabric of social clubs that have grown up around naturism is down to the climate: Britain lacks the sun-blessed, naturist-friendly coastlines of Croatia and the Côte d’Azur but, in other senses, is a warm climate for the unclothed. Being naked in public is not a criminal offence in England and Wales, unlike in some countries and many US states, although under Section 66 of Sexual Offences Act 2003 an individual can be arrested if it is proved they went naked with an intent to shock or cause distress.
Salisbury, whose partner Rich also dabbles in naturism, sees himself as a “functional naturist”, fond of living as much of his life as possible unclothed and never happier than when he’s swimming naked in an Alpine lake. Having lived in Germany and seen both naturist cultures close up, he now views naturism as something of a social-spiritual tonic.
“Naturism improves your emotional wellbeing, definitely, but I wonder whether it’s nudity that’s good for you or, rather, that there’s a widespread complex around the body that’s profoundly damaging to our self-image and that naturism is an inoculation against this,” he says.
Donna Price, 57, also sees naturism as the simple gesture of going about one’s ordinary life without clothes. Price and her retired husband John, 72, have been keen naturists since they chanced upon a nudist beach on holiday in New Zealand in 2010. Price is a committed naked gardener and buff baker, posting her experiments on her Twitter account, @nakedfreestyler. In 2019, the Prices moved from Kent to Lincolnshire so they could potter naked in the garden without upsetting their suburban neighbours.
The pandemic has also seen them turning their hands to naked house-painting, which Price admits requires a certain dexterity. “During the pandemic people started enjoying the feeling of being naked when they were doing really normal things, such as office work, gardening, cooking and housework,” Price says. “And I love that.” She recently spoke to the WI, naked via Zoom, as an ambassador for women in naturism, and believes that the souls of middle England are ripe to be captured.
“The members were really receptive, so I really hope we see a rash of WI naturists,” she smiles.
Following her Damascene conversion, Berriman believes that all of our lives might be better lived in the buff. “You won’t understand the absolute feeling of freedom and acceptance that comes from being naked in public until you try it,” she says. “Yes, your body is saggier and older than it ever was, but this is the body you’re travelling through this life in. Why not embrace it and start living?”