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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Naked rambler's 'freedom of expression'
by Nicola McGann
BBC News Online, Birmingham

Steve Gough
Mr Gough was arrested at the start of his 847-mile walk

Naked rambler Steve Gough's epic journey from one end of the country to the other has drawn a mixed reaction from members of the public.

The 44-year-old has been arrested five times and beaten to the point where he needed four stitches in his head.

But he also says he has received a lot of support on his 847-mile walk from Land's End to John O'Groats and he is determined to carry on to the end.

While most people prefer to "express themselves" in the privacy of their own home, Mr Gough says he wants to raise awareness of society's "unnatural attitude" towards the human body.

Shameful and embarrassing

The father-of-two told BBC News Online: "Society is paranoid about the human body.

To have parts of the body thought of as shameful is wrong
Steve Gough

"It thinks it's shameful and embarrassing but how can something we are living in be shameful? We are not made to feel like that when we are children but it is taught to us as we grow up through our parents."

Unemployed Mr Gough, from Eastleigh, near Southampton, set off from Land's End on 16 June and is now following the Offa's Dyke footpath near Shropshire.

His route will take him through Oswestry and Whitchurch then on to Congleton and up through the Pennines into Scotland.

Although he has estimated he will arrive at John O'Groats sometime mid-August, he says it depends on whether he is arrested again.

"Most people have been quite friendly and have said 'Good idea mate'. They tend to be couples or single people.

"I have also gone through some towns and people have come up and walked with me and been very positive.

"But then I have also had the other end of the scale. When I was in St Ives a guy came up to me and was hassling me.

'Extreme reaction'

"I had a heavy rucksack on and he pushed me over and then the kicks and blows came in. I ended up needing four stitches to a gash."

Steve Gough
Mr Gough is led away by police

He added: "That was the most extreme reaction I have received.

"I think if you're different you will get that anyway - people think it gives them permission to try it on."

As well as the attack, Mr Gough has been arrested five times and appeared at court on several occasions - each time, he says, holding his journey up.

"Sometimes the police have waited for me on the coastal path and I have gone to court but as far as I'm aware, nothing has ever come of it and in one town they actually let me go after they arrested me."

Despite these setbacks, he is determined to complete his journey and make his point.

"I am a bit of a thinker and if someone says I can't do something, I like to think I can express myself as a human being.

'Fear disapproval'

"Everyone talks and acts the same way. Everyone talks about health but the one thing they seem to neglect is a healthy image.

"To have parts of the body thought of as shameful is wrong."

Mr Gough has two children, aged five and seven, by his ex-wife. So what do they think of his public display of expression?

"The children are at an age when they are being indoctrinated about the human body and slowly taught its not okay to show it off while my ex-wife disapproves.

"People fear disapproval from other people more than they want to be themselves."

At the end of the day, Mr Gough says he is just a "normal guy" who wants to wear clothes when it is cold and no clothes when it is hot.

If the current heatwave continues, people in Britain could be seeing a lot more of the naked rambler.

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