Towards the end of March the Daily Telegraph reported that Welsh naturists wanted part of Newborough Beach in Anglesey to be designated nudist. The article said the beach was often described as one of the best beaches in Wales, and it went on to say how it included Llanddwyn Island – named after the patron saint of Welsh lovers – and that it had been used in filming the romantic thriller Half Light in 2004 (and starred Demi Moore) and Clash of the Titans in 2009. But what really got the journalists’ nose twitching is that Prince William is stationed as a RAF Search and Rescue helicopter pilot not very far away and held out the prospect of our future King and Queen encountering naked subjects while walking their dog.
The beach has been attracting naturists for a number of years and the article stated that British Naturism claimed that ‘official status would make a big difference and benefit local tourism’. Does it? I have in the past agreed that it might provide a boost to the local tourist industry if a town embraced naturism but at the same time I called for research to back up such a claim. Just saying it does, doesn’t make it so and if BN or anyone else is going to be quoted stating that naturism makes good commercial sense then the local authorities will want to know how they arrived at that conclusion. If they cannot point to the research then their statements will ring hollow and any future pronouncements made by them will be dismissed without a second look.
Phil Penson, the landlord of the Joiner’s Arms in the neighbouring town of Malltraeth was quoted as saying that the beach was for everyone’s use and he saw no problem with naturism, as long as ‘it is kept under control’. Control? What did he mean by that! A clue might come from a quote by BN’s Commercial Manager, Andrew Welch, throwing that organisation’s weight behind the designation as ‘It takes away the hassle factor because a lot of people see naturism as illegal.’ They might, but is seeking some kind of “official” status the right way to go about informing the public that there is no law banning public nudity? I contest that it isn’t, in fact I’d go further and suggest that it will only make matters worse.
There is a disparity between the law, allowing public nudity and British social norms that causes much ringing of hands by council officers. A Carmarthenshire council spokesman told the BBC News website that: ‘If genuine naturists turn up and aren’t causing distress, life goes on. … [but] there are other group types who would possibly commit acts of gross indecency or lewd behaviour in front of our visitors.’ In order to “control” these “types” of undesirable people, councils have taken a sledgehammer to the problem by banning naturism from their beaches. A few though have designated certain beaches where nudity is permitted; usually well away from their main beaches and hence from any facilities like toilets or places to obtain refreshments.
The thing about designating a beach, or some other secluded public area, for naturist use is that it suggests to the non-naturist that it is not for them, while at the same time it acts like a magnet to every undesirable scallywag within driving distance. These can range from the almost harmless voyeur to the equally pathetic dogger who sees the naturist designation as permission to excite their otherwise dull sex-lives by fornicating in a public place, which is illegal. Naturism and naturists have been complaining about these hangers on for a very long time, but their protests have largely been impotent simply because the distinction between the legitimate naturist and the illegal dogger has been blurred, and the police can not tell the difference. After all, one naked body looks like any other when it’s running around trying not to get caught.
Yet, in some ways I cannot help thinking that we (naturists) have not helped matters by allowing a “live and let live” attitude to prevail within that portion of the naturist community who prefer open fields and beaches. By not challenging what we would consider as unacceptable behaviour in any other walk of life, we are in essence, accessories to an illegal act and it is up to us to tell these fake naturists that they are not welcome.
Back to the main theme of this piece however, the Naturist Action Group has chosen a different path to BN and our policy is that ALL beaches should be clothes optional. This way the clothed and unclothed, and variations in between can easily be catered for on a hot day. The policy has two main advantages. First, it gets rid of the “hassle factor” cited by Andrew Welch without seemingly barring anyone from using the same location. Second, it disperses the naturists over a much greater portion of the coastline, making it is less likely that they will be found by voyeurs. It will also bring naturism much more out into the open, leading – it is believed – to making the tag naturist less attractive to those who have little interest in the real benefits of a clothes free lifestyle. Something we want to promote, surely.
Oh, just as a matter of record. The Telegraph article mentioned also said that local residents are yet to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the beach, but if they read the article and now know that there was a naturist beach, even an unofficial one, nearby…. Well, you never know!
An edited version of this is blog will appear in the June issue of H&E Naturist.