The Naturist Talks: Brian from the UK

The Naturist Talks: Brian from the UK

As you may have read in the very first post of this blog, one of the main reasons why we started this project is to show the world that naturists are not some strange dark commune but that actually everyone could be one… Or could enjoy being one if they took the first step.

 

Our main example of “everyone” is of course ourselves, we write posts about naturism in general but also about our own experiences. But some of you might be thinking “Yes sure, those two are probably just the strange kids in the block…” (nah, we know you’re not thinking that about us, but we’re trying to write an introduction here). So we decided to let other naturists have a word as well.

 

So please sit back and get inspired!

 

Meanwhile we already published several interviews with people from all over the world. You can find them in the The Naturist Talks section.
Today we have the honor of listening to Brian Johnson, living in the UK but a man of the world and writer of hiking guides such as The GR10 Trail and The Pacific Crest Trail.

 

Hello Brian, please tell us something about yourself
As a youngster I was a fanatic sportsman, concentrating on cricket, hockey and chess. After university I taught physics in Salisbury, England for about 25 years, but was much more interested in sport and outdoor activities running the hockey and cricket in the school as well as the orienteering and mountaineering. A serious foot injury eventually meant I had to give up running, then walking and teaching became difficult and eventually my surgeon recommended early retirement. At this stage I started canoeing and kayaking as the only means of getting exercise and getting out into the wilderness and I went on long canoe-camping tours, mainly in Sweden.

 

_standing-stone-on-islayEventually my foot improved and three years after taking retirement I was able to start playing bowls and two years after that I walked the Pacific Crest Trail which is the 2650-mile footpath through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border. Since then I have climbed all the mountains over 2000ft in Scotland, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail twice more, done a 2700-mile Round-Britain walk and done about 10 Atlantic to Mediterranean hikes on GR10, GR11 or HRP through the Pyrenees.

 

I now write walking guides for Cicerone Press and have had guides published for the Pacific Crest Trail, the Corbetts (Scotland’s 2500-3000ft mountains) and the GR11 and GR10.
After almost 25 years without running, I have managed to start orienteering again. Now I’m very busy in the winter playing bridge, bowls, orienteering and writing my guidebooks while in the summer I’m in the mountains for about 5 months.

 

How and at what age did you become a naturist?
I was like all young children. I was a natural naturist and had no inhibitions about nudity and no thoughts that there is anything unusual or wrong with nudity.
My first memory of nudity was as a little boy, probably aged about seven, on a beach in Cornwall. It wasn’t a memory of being naked, but a memory of being made to have a towel around my waist when changing into a swimming costume on the beach in case I upset anyone on the beach! The process of social conditioning had begun and was probably complete by the time as an 11 year-old we were made to take communal showers after rugby. It wasn’t long before all the boys either dodged or wore swimming costumes in the showers. The only chink in the social conditioning was the example of some of our sports teachers who used the boys’ showers, naked, as there weren’t any separate showers for the staff.

 

I was a shy boy and as a fifteen year old I set myself challenges to try and overcome the shyness. I was a fanatical sportsman and I was using the communal showers at school most days. One of these challenges was to go naked in the communal showers. Initially very daunting, but by the time I left school I was comfortable being naked in the presence of other males, but my social conditioning would have still meant I’d have been terrified of being naked in front of females.

 

I was aged 21, in 1972, when I had what might be considered my first naturist experience. I was on my own on a mountainside in the Austrian Alps and stripped off during a break. It was the first time I had been naked in the open-air and also the first time I took a ‘naked-selfie’.
It wasn’t until after I left University that I actually saw my first naked lady in the flesh! This may sound surprising to the modern youngster, but my social conditioning definitely included the concepts that both mixed nudity and ‘sex before marriage’ were unacceptable. My first experience of female nudity was actually at Salisbury Playhouse where there was a production of the Peter Shaffer play, ‘Equus’ and the leading girl and boy are both naked for a considerable time. In those days nudity on stage or film was very unusual.

_pic-de-crabere-on-gr10

I had started mountaineering seriously in 1975 and the long hot summers of 1975 and 1976 saw me skinny-dipping in mountain tarns and streams, particularly in the Scottish Highlands.
I’d also started orienteering and it was at a 6-day Orienteering event in Switzerland in 1978 that I got my first experience of public nudity. Segregated and screened outdoor showers were provided for use after running, but there was very little changing space in the enclosures and many men, women and children, just dried off and changed outside the enclosures. This experience was eye-opening as it brought into question the whole of the social conditioning on nudity that was ingrained in most people in Britain. I have been to other orienteering events in Switzerland where, with only one set of showers available, they made them unisex with men women and children using them naked.

 

Later in 1978 I got my first experience of a naturist beach in the South of France. Over the next few years, I was spending more and more time naked but almost always when on my own. I was a teacher and much of my holiday time was spent away with pupils, orienteering and mountaineering, and naturist opportunities were rather limited. On solo trips to the Scottish Highlands, I would take advantage of the isolation to be naked as often as the weather allowed and would occasionally be able to hike naked. The most daring thing I did was running naked in the New Forest.

 

As a sports teacher there were occasions when I had to use the same changing facilities as my pupils and I set the same example as had been set to me when I was a school and was occasionally seen naked by my pupils. On one mountaineering trip to Norway, with three of my 15 year-old pupils, we slept in the changing hut on one of the small lakeside beaches. As a teacher I was unsure as to how much I could sensibly be seen naked by my pupils. However, I got up before them and went naked when I went for an early morning swim. They spotted me and I was surprised when one of them stripped off and joined me, diving unashamedly from the pontoon at the beach; unusual for a teenage boy.
On another trip, with three members of my SW Junior Orienteering Squad, including one girl, we bivouacked on a Danish beach on the way to Sweden. Again I went for an early morning swim while I thought the kids were still asleep. However it wasn’t long before they joined me. Although they wouldn’t have considered skinny-dipping themselves, my nudity didn’t seem to concern them in the slightest. I was beginning to realise that while most people are embarrassed by the idea of being naked in front of others, they have no problem with others being naked in their presence.

 

My lifestyle started to change in the early 1990’s as a foot injury forced me to retire from orienteering and running and I spent more time walking alone on my holidays and started walking some of the long distance footpaths in the Alps, Pyrenees and in California and backpacking in these warmer mountains gave far more naturist opportunities than the mountains of Scotland.

 

_canoeing-in-swedenBy 1994 my foot injury had deteriorated to such an extent that I could no longer go walking. I was looking for ways to get some exercise and to get out into the wilderness and I purchased both a kayak and an open canoe. I wasn’t a competent swimmer and needed to improve my swimming and water confidence. I was lucky to have access to my school’s outdoor swimming pool and I started visiting the pool in the evenings and weekends when the school was closed and was able to use the pool naked. I managed to turn myself into a confident, if rather inefficient swimmer.

 

My first canoe outings were in Poole Harbour and it didn’t take long to discover that in calm conditions my canoe was very stable and I could manage without the life-jacket; I was soon canoeing naked. This discovery of naked canoeing was soon to revolutionise my approach to naturism.
I canoed a lot in Sweden and one incident had a big effect on the way I viewed nudity. I was swimming naked from a pontoon at a deserted beach. A lady who was on another pontoon about 100 metres away saw me diving naked into the water. What she did next really surprised me; she called over her teenage daughters who were some way away and they came over and sat down in a around towel and pile of clothing! Eventually I had to get out of the water and walk, completely naked, to them. I was feeling very exposed, but tried to act as if it was perfectly normal to be naked in front of a mother and her teenage daughters. Once we had discovered a common language we chatted while I dried myself and dressed. There was never even a mention that I was naked!

 

I was beginning to realise that there was no good reason to hide away when naked and that very few people were offended by nudity. I often canoed naked when it was warm enough, with a towel handy to cover up if anyone came near, and over the years I used the towel less and less as I became more confident. If I came to a small beach with others present I started asking if they minded me swimming naked. Initially I only did this when there were only adults present but it wasn’t long I discovered that parents were usually happy for me to be naked in the presence of their children. I was a keen photographer and had previously taken quite a lot of photos of myself naked using the time release on my camera, but it was impossible to take action photos of canoeing, swimming or diving into the water. I started asking complete strangers if they would take photos of me canoeing and swimming naked and found they almost always agreed. Once I have been swimming naked others often followed the example.

 

The foot injury eventually forced me to take early retirement and I had much more time on my hands and I started looking around for interesting things to do. A friend introduced me to body painting and it wasn’t long after that I found myself appearing on Sky TV show ‘Britain’s Wildest’ when I was filmed, completely naked, being body painted by a young model. We then went out into the New Forest and I was filmed walking around completely naked except for the body paint.
By now I was totally comfortable being naked in front of others and over the years I have done a fair amount of naked modelling for photographers and as a model for life-drawing and sculpture groups. I’ve also been photographed and videoed for a number of student projects on nudity and naturism. After one project a student asked me to attend the presentation of her video to her tutors and to walk into her presentation a couple of minutes after it had started. She wanted to make an impression so she didn’t say anything about it to her tutors but asked that I should be totally naked; an interesting experience for all concerned.

 

Eventually my foot injury improved and I managed to get back to serious walking. In 2002, I walked the entire 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington. Since 2002, I have walked the Pacific Crest Trail twice more, done a Round Britain Walk, climbed all the mountains over 2500ft in Scotland, walked three times across the Pyrenees from Atlantic Ocean to Mediterranean Sea and walked the Via de la Plata from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostella. During this time I started writing walking guidebooks for Cicerone Press. This time in the wilderness gave me wonderful opportunities for living and walking naked.

 

In recent years I’ve been rather more public in my nudity and am now completely comfortable being naked in the presence of clothed members of the public. If I’m naked at home, which is whenever it is warm enough, I will answer the door naked and I’ve got a lot of naturist photos on the walls throughout my house.
I’ve tried to contribute to campaigns for public acceptance of nudity, including ‘starring’ in a video on wilderness naturism and another on naturism and the law. I’ve ridden in a number of World Naked Bike Ride events which are naked rides through the middle of major city centres such as London.
My latest naked exploit was appearing naked on BBC1 TV. It wasn’t anything I planned and I only found out afterwards, but the satirical comedy programme ‘Have I Got News for You’ showed a photo of me walking naked in the Scottish Highlands as an example of a member of British Naturism who was complaining about the censorship of nudity on the BBC!

The Freedom of the Wilderness from Charlie Blackfield on Vimeo.

As I approach old age, I can look back on a long journey from the extremely shy teenager to someone who is totally comfortable to be naked in front of anyone.

 

Is naturism allowed in your country and what’s the public opinion?
Public nudity is not actually illegal anywhere in Britain and in the debates on the 2002 Sexual Offences Act it was made clear that Parliament had no intention to criminalise naturism or streaking. However, you are likely to be arrested by the police and they will find some law which was never intended to apply to public nudity and with the help of prejudiced prosecutors and Judiciary you may get a conviction. There are a small number of official naturist beaches but I have little interest in them and I’m suspicious of the concept of the provision of naturist facilities because it leads to the ghettoization of naturism and is used to imply that nudity is something that should only be practised ‘by consenting adults in private’. There is no doubt that naturist beaches have attracted non-naturists whose sexual activities have brought naturism into disrepute.

 

Public Opinion Polls have suggested that a significant minority of the population have practised naturism (mainly on foreign beaches) and that a large majority would have no objection to seeing others who are naked in appropriate circumstances. The surveys are backed up by observations at events such as the World Naked Bike Rides where crowds show terrific support for the riders.

 

_london-wnbrWe hate to divide people into groups, but we’ll do it anyway…
Do you consider yourself a naturist, a nudist or an occasional nudist?
I have a very different idea of the meaning of naturism than ‘mainstream’ naturists in this country. I’m not interested in joining a naturist club and I don’t see naturism as an activity, but as a state of dress as illustrated below. I also see naturism as an expression of personal freedom in a society where political and religious leaders want to exert more and more control over the population.

 

In prehistoric days Homo Sapiens developed in Africa and, like all the other animals, went around naked. It was only when man started spreading north to colder climates that man started wearing clothes and the reason was protection from the cold weather. Right up to the arrival of Christian missionaries, most tribal societies living in the warm climates would see nudity as normal and would only wear clothes when it was necessary. Dressing up was often only done for religious ceremonies! In hunter-gatherer societies the wearing of clothes while hunting in warm climates would have hampered the hunt and would be a handicap the survival of the society.

 

With the development of ‘civilization’, clothes were more widely worn, mainly because the population pressures drove people away from the equatorial regions. However most of these societies still saw nudity as perfectly acceptable. In Greece for instance the competitors in the ancient Olympic Games performed naked. This would have been sensible since clothes would only have hampered the competitors.

 

In Britain the climate is such that clothes need to be worn most of the time for protection against the weather. However British and American societies, greatly influenced by the Church, have developed a phobia about nudity. This has been accentuated by the association of nudity with sex. In recent years, there has also been an unjustified association in some parts of the media of nudity with child abuse. However nudity has generally been accepted, even in church art where naked children are often depicted, at a time that being naked in public has been demonised.

 

We are now expected to wear clothes in situations where the wearing of clothes doesn’t make any sort of sense.

 

a) Swimming. In historical terms, the swimming costume is a very recent invention. It serves no useful purpose in terms of the swimming and the main beneficiary from the introduction of swimming costumes has been the manufacturers who make vast profits from sales of increasingly skimpy costumes, which are often much more sexually provocative than the naked body.

 

b) Spas, saunas, jacuzzi, communal baths. In Germany a sauna where there is a requirement to wear clothes is known as an “English Sauna”. In Northern Europe the wearing of clothes in a sauna or jacuzzi would be thought of as ridiculous, but it is insisted upon in most pools, spas and hotels in Britain. Even more ridiculous is the move towards some public swimming pools to insist that swimmers wear their costumes when taking showers before and after swimming, even in single sex changing rooms.

 

c) Taking rigorous physical exercise in warm weather. When you watch marathon runners, running in hot weather, such as in the Olympics in Greece, you will notice that the runners wear as little clothing as the rules permit. Clothes make running uncomfortable and make it difficult for the body to avoid overheating. Anyone who has run naked will appreciate the advantages in keeping the body cool. When clothing gets saturated with sweat it becomes uncomfortable and can lead to chafing in the groin area which can get bad enough to be incapacitating. When you see hikers (male only?) removing their shirts because it is too hot you wonder whether they wouldn’t in fact be more comfortable removing their shorts or trousers as well.

 

d) Sunbathing.

 

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that suitable clothing should be worn for activities and that if the suitable clothing is not to wear any then that is what should be done.
My personal opinion is that we should be campaigning for the acceptance of non-sexual nudity in all beaches and wilderness areas. In addition we should be campaigning for the acceptance of nudity in public swimming pools, saunas, city parks etc.

_via-de-la-plata

Do you find it easy to make naturist friends?
I’m not really interested in naturist friends, my friendship groups are based on the activities I do, mainly bridge, bowls and orienteering, and I prefer to do most of my mountaineering solo. I have naturist acquaintances, mainly through the internet and British Naturism.

 

What’s the best tip you have for beginning naturists?
Don’t be embarrassed by nudity!!

 

I think naturists are their own worst enemies. They hide behind high hedges, almost like a secret organisation. They don’t want their friends and relations to know they are naturists, have a phobia about being photographed naked, and they (wrongly) believe that other people will be offended by nudity.

 

Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
A short account from my 2015 hike of the GR10, the long distance footpath from Atlantic to Mediterranean through the French Pyrenees.
I met a young French couple who were walking a section of the GR10.When I first met then I was wearing a T-shirt with the wording in solidarity with the French people after the massacre of the writers at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and in protest against the teaching of body shame that is prevalent in our modern society.

 

‘Je suis Charlie’; Je n’ai pas peur
Je suis Naturiste; Je n’ai pas honte
Je n’ai pas peur d’etre nu

 

Our first conversation revealed that they were ‘closet naturists’, in private and had never been naked in public before. I met them a few times over the next few days and our conversations must have had some effect because I came across then naked right on the trail, having taken a shower in a waterfall. I also stripped off and they took some photographs of me and some photographs of me naked with the young lady, now clothed. After this we spent several days walking together and they were soon comfortable, not only being naked with me, but also being photographed naked. They weren’t confident enough to walk naked, but quite often I was walking with them while I was naked and they were clothed. I was walking with them when we had arrived at the Col d’Aueran (2116m) and decided to walk up the Pic de Crabere (2619m) from the col. We left our rucksacks at the col and I also left my clothes there and I climbed naked to the summit of the mountain. We didn’t meet anyone on the ascent, but we met a number of hikers on the descent including one group of ladies who recognised me as the author of the Cicerone Press guide to the GR11. I was naked while we chatted about the GR10 guidebook I was writing.

 

This casual acceptance of nudity is typical of the attitude I’ve found to nudity on my mountaineering or canoe expeditions.

 

Thank you so much for your participation Brian!

 

Do you also want to tell your story and experiences in naturism? Please get in touch via the CONTACT page! As long as we have people who like to contribute, we can keep The Naturist Talks running!

12 thoughts on “The Naturist Talks: Brian from the UK

  1. A really interesting read Brian, thanks.
    We fully agree with your advice – “Don’t be embarrassed by nudity!!” Its nothing to be ashamed of either. As you’ve said elsewhere on the British naturism website and other sites, and in videos like ‘Sometimes Illegal’ unless we make nudity normal we’re going to find ‘authorities’ blocking our choice to be as nature intended. We appreciate your efforts to do this online and using other mediums.

    We too would love to see “..acceptance of non-sexual nudity in all beaches and wilderness areas. In addition we should be campaigning for the acceptance of nudity in public swimming pools, saunas, city parks etc.” We love hiking naked too and have found a few local paths where we seldom meet anyone, we have a few friends who we share this wonderful activity with. We’ve been surprised by textile walkers around blind corners etc and agree with you, our nakedness has not been an issue really, occasional passing comments along the lines of ‘a nice day for it’ or sometimes people stop and ask if we do it nude a lot etc, we’ve even been told that they wished they had the courage to join us, but so far they haven’t! We used to be more wary of textiles but don’t like covering up after we’ve been seen as that indicates that we’re ashamed of our nudity when that is far from being the case, its something we appreciate and celebrate.

    Its great to read such open and honest views on what should be a very normal way of being.

    Here’s to a much more naked future!

    1. I think youngsters feel the need to conform even more than we did 50 years ago. As children we had much more freedom to play outside and disappear into the countryside without adult supervision. The fear of “stranger danger” seems to restrict what children are allowed to do nowadays despite all the evidence that child abuse and child cruelty is almost always done by people known to the child and usually people responsible for the child. Fear of accusations of being a paedophile is making it even more difficult for children to be exposed to casual non-sexual nudity and this will reinforce the prudery of modern society.

  2. I think that societies prudish beliefs are a result of each individual persons fear of being different. The need to conform suppresses any desire to be free to live in a way that feels comfortable to us.

    By complying with the expectation that we should never reveal our naked bodies to anyone else, we are perpetuating these expectations to those around us.

    Positive change can only come from leaders like Brian who do not feel that they need to conform and their confidence and belief in the lifestyle is what makes people reassess societies current behavioral norms.

    Great talk and very inspirational.

  3. I have enjoyed reading Brian’s blog, a fascinating story and I envy him his freedom to go naked wherever and whenever.
    I first enjoyed naturism as a 13 year old running round my garden naked at night and in the showers and communal baths at school. Then in the Royal Navy where, in the training establishment, we always swam naked in the swimming pool after PT lessons.
    Thereafter opportunities were rare but I did enjoy swimming nude in the West Indies and on Singapore island.
    Since marriage and retirement we have holidayed in naturist resorts in Europe and bared all on beaches all over Britain. Like Brian, I have run naked in the New Forset and loved it.
    Now at the age of 79 I life model for a local class and just love being nude in front of my artist friends. I also am a member of the group so see both sides of the process.

  4. Once upon a time I encountered a clothed couple while hiking nude. It happened near a secluded beach in Florida, shared with a popular, beautiful textile beach. The nude portion was way beyond the clothed beach and not widely known as frequented by nudists.

    The two easiest ways to get to the nude portion was either walking along the beach from the clothed section or walking from the regular parking lot, parallel to the beach, on the dirt path fire access road. I usually walked the fire road since it was an easier walk than on the beach sand. Another benefit of the fire road was once you rounded a bend you were no longer visible to anyone in the parking lot, only to those further down the road. This was not a road frequented by many people, usually only other nudists visiting the beach. Often, after rounding the bend, I would remove what little clothing I was wearing and walk naked the rest of the way.

    One time though, while nude, I saw a clothed couple walking towards me, after they had rounded another bend up ahead. They were not dressed like they were coming from the nude beach. They looked like tourists from the Midwest, with inappropriate clothing for the beach. I was in a quandary as what to do. They were 100 yards or so away, they looked to be about 30 years old, and they could clearly see I was naked. It seemed if I put on my shorts I would be admitting I was guilty of something. At the same time, they were walking only a short distance away from other nude people. Maybe they had already seen them.

    I decided to remain nude and pretend it was normal. As we passed each other, one of them made a snide comment to the other about what they had just witnessed. I wonder, after some contemplation, if that encounter opened either of their minds to understand a nude human enjoying nature, is nature in its essence.

    1. I suspect that there are a higher proportion of people in the US with closed minds than in much of Europe. The Conservatism of the religious right is a real problem. Perhaps now that the ‘First Lady’ was a nude model and Mr Trump was supported by most of the religious bigots might have some effect; somehow I doubt it. There are some people whose minds will never be opened.

      1. Unfortunately, it’s people using political power to dictate all sorts of behaviors, coming from all religious backgrounds. They like controlling people. There’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t have the right to hike naked. The simple act of hiking nude is no danger to any other person. I can’t fathom any government needing to be concerned a naked hiker getting an insect bite or too much sun on their genitalia (or breast in the case of females).

  5. Last year I drove to a car park in the New Forest, UK and stripped naked there in view of several people. On putting on my walking shoes, one guy came over and we agreed to go walking nude together. We walked a few miles totally naked, took a few photos to record the event and returned back to the car park. We both agreed it was a stimulating and enjoyable occasion

  6. Hi Brian I have been a great fan of yours since I saw your video of the freedom of the wilderness,and I keep looking out for more of your naturist videos, but sadly I havnt come across any, I am a member of true nudist, and there sister sit, keep up the good work, garry

  7. For some the reluctance to be naked is the prospect of those
    who see one naked making a formal “complaint”. Although
    such complaints will normally “go away”, it is a hassle having
    to address them when all that one wants to do is to go about
    one’s normal activities.

    In Spain the constitution of 1978 enshrines (Article 18) the
    right to be naked in public places. The removal of the fear
    of being “denounced” (ie formally charged) makes a huge
    difference – although sometimes one does have to explain
    the vagaries of the law to local police.

    In the UK we do not have a written constitution and all of
    our rights are dependent upon the will of parliament. This
    is a factor in the Brexit negotiations as the UK is UNABLE
    to guarantee citizen rights in perpetuity. At present we have
    the 2003 Act and guidance from the Crown Prosecution
    Service (CPS) but all that could change.

    With Brexit in prospect, I have acquired citizenship of
    another EU member state and so have confirmed my
    European citizenship BUT that option is not available
    to everyone. Hopefully, UK citizens will still have the
    opportunity to experience the freedoms of Spain after
    29th March 2019 but such is not certain. There is even
    talk (from the head of RyanAir) about cheap flights
    between EU and UK no longer being licensed – so that
    international travel will be much more expensive and
    restricted in scope.
    Yes, that IS within “Project Fear” but Brexit has drawn
    attention to the fragility of our rights.
    If we remain subject to accusation for normal behaviour
    we are likely to self-censor ourselves. There is ample
    evidence that de-criminalisation of behaviours leads
    to reduction in the scope for blackmail etc. It is time
    for nudity to be brought out of the closet. The legal
    obstacles can be removed by parliament – but can
    society is general remove the cultural obstacles?

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