By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine
Naturists are on a mission to have fun, and to educate
The sale of a naturist travel firm for £1.8m shows businesses are hunting the "buff pound", but, apart from the obvious, what makes a nudist holiday?
There can be few whose mind does not fill with technicolour stereotypes when they think of a naturist holiday.
Decades-old films of young models pretending to be volley ball-playing naturists are not exactly the ideal foundation for being taken seriously.
But umbrella group British Naturism estimates there are a million people in the UK who practise some form or nudism and say that they are growing in confidence to be open and proud about what they do.
With the advent of the "pink pound" (gay) and the "grey pound" (old), naturists are now celebrating the rise of the "buff pound" (naked).
Media attention has been drawn to the phenomenon by the sale of specialist nudist firm Peng Travel to the growing mainstream firm Travelzest.
Naturists are hyper-aware of snide efforts to take the mickey out of them, but they are on a mission to gain acceptance in a world that has a tendency to snigger. British Naturism commercial manager Andrew Welch says people would be surprised at the feel of a naturist holiday.
"From a tangible point of view one thing that many, many people say when they discover naturist people in holiday resorts is just how normal they are. People are maybe surprised how upmarket things are.
"The side that does change is on two fronts. The sense of community and the sense of well-being."
The naturist community has a slightly derogatory term for their clothed counterparts - "textiles".
Sense of relief
And the stereotypical image of British people on holiday is rarely a positive one. Whether it's spotty 17-year-olds merrily fighting in Faliraki or a general lack of cultural awareness, there are many Britons who would really rather not meet their compatriots on trips abroad.
But this is far from the case in the naturist community.
Mr Welch continues: "Everybody feels that sense of relief. You find yourself talking to all the nationalities. The sense of community comes about because everybody understands. It is nice to be with naked people.
TOP UK NATURIST BEACHES
Studland Beach, Dorset
Morfa Dyffryn, Gwynedd, Wales
Pednevounder beach, Cornwall
"There is a sense of liberation you do feel. People talk to each other. It's like birds of a feather, or perhaps birds of no feather."
And there is a sense of communal euphoria amongst the naturist holidaymakers, that for the textile community would probably have to be induced by alcopops.
"We all work indoors, we sit under fluorescent lights in front of computer screens. Getting out into the sunshine and fresh air is good for everybody. You are exposing more of your body, body image problems fade away.
"Everybody has got bits of themselves they don't like. It really doesn't matter. Particularly among younger people they are plagued by pictures of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and so on. In naturism, you realise everybody is unique."
Love of sunshine
When textiles and naturists pack for their holidays they take the same things. They might travel slightly lighter, but naturists still need clothes to visit the sites, go to the airport and eat out.
And even with their love of the sunshine, naturists don't require buckets of sun block as the emphasis is on "little and often" rather than roasting all day.
Obviously the weather is of importance to naturists, but it is not everything.
Mr Welch admits: "There is no question we suffer from the climate more than other countries. But last Thursday it was hotter here than Morocco. The opportunities are more limited but naturism can be an indoor thing."
Total 24/7 nudity is not mandatory, with many holidaymakers choosing to wear shorts or a sarong when eating.
And anybody expecting titillation at a nudist resort is in for a shock.
"It's actually rather boring. Lots of 50 and 60-year-old normal men and women. There isn't that excitement," Mr Welch notes.
Margaret and John Lewis run Pevors Farm, one of Britain's top naturist holiday sites, at Sible Hedingham in Essex. Arable farmers and longstanding naturists, who diversified into holiday cottages four years ago, they are already making a healthy profit.
Mr Lewis insists: "Naturists are very much the same as other tourists in that they are looking for nice villages and so on to visit. It is becoming much more mainstream. [But] a lot of people don't admit it."
The question in many minds is where do they draw the line?
As Mr Welch says: "Our main challenge is the culture of this country. It is not illegal to be naked. But as an organisation we don't really support people who want to shop naked in Sainsbury's."
Here are a selection of your comments.
I have been a naturist for a few years, and look forward to the summer when I can pop over to Morfa Dyffren beach near Harlech, which is truly fantastic. Naturism is a great leveller, and gives one a great feeling of balance and relaxation. Everyone should try it!
Antony Forst, Stoke on Trent
If it's perfectly legal to be naked outdoors, have naked holidays, meet other naked people outdoors etc., then why do the police keep arresting that naked rambler chap?
Rob, London, UK
To a life-long naturist, it is always amusing to see folks taking every opportunity to talk about naturism and use illustrative photographs and then... not want to investigate it for themselves! We are as normal as the next person and there is nothing unusual about wanting to be naked in the fresh air and water. Human beings always have done so and always will.
Simon Allen, Hertfordshire, UK.
Heartily endorse Andrew Welch - we slid into the lifestyle when the kids were toddlers and havent looked back. Naturists have the best beaches, nicest clubs and cleanest campsites - we joined the Heritage Club in Berkshire 10 years ago and have never regretted it.
I & JM, Kew
I agree that naturists have the right to want to be viewed equally as holidaymakers and promote the understanding and acceptance of their beliefs. However, last summer my boyfriend of seven months ended up cheating on me on a naturist holiday. He revealed that it was a naturist holiday he was going on, we talked it over and agreed there didn't seem to be any problems.
His ex-girlfriend was on this holiday and their relationship was re-lit. Now we are not together and he hasn't seen this other woman since the holiday. His actions I believe were encouraged by the naturist environment and as a result I think naturism is maybe more for those who are in naturism together... in marriage. Naturism ruined my summer.
Emma D, UK
My wife and I holiday every November in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. We meet lots of friends who like us are kite fliers and quite a lot of us find it most relaxing to get the "kit" off while flying our kites. There is nothing embarrassing about it and the feeling of freedom is quite intense while stood in the buff listening to the wind filling the sails of the various beautiful hand made creations... Come and join us...
John Baker , Leeds United Kingdom
This country does not really have a culture to accept nudity. I have visited non naturist hotels in mainland europe where it was the norm to use a communial changing room and no clothes were required in the steam or sauna and in some places even the pool. Also nudity is accepted on many beaches and even some public parks. We are so repressed as a nation about our bodies that I do not see naturism ever really taking off here until we adopt a healthier attitude to nakedness.
Inside_Track, Poole UK
Here in Greece many beaches are mixed, nudists and "textiles" together and nobody really makes a big thing out of it. Generally, naturists choose the remote beaches, but there are no "borders". It is strange, because Greece is a relatively conservative country yet most greeks have no problem with nudity.
Elias Kostopoulos, Athens, Greece
I think its all a bit cheeky!
Peter Alessi, Coventry
I don't agree with the naturist lifestyle and believe it should be kept in areas away from the general public. Naturists here generally do a good job remaining where their choices do not impact others. For that, I thank them and wish them a life filled with soft spots to sit and sunshine for warmth.
Mscaleb, Dimebox, USA
Dress naturism up any way you like. It will always make us 'textiles' giggle. Any activity takes on a new slant when naked. And what about the hygiene aspect? I certainly dont want to hire a bike knowing someones bare backside has been sliding up and down the saddle. I hope the naturists carry baby wipes!
Kelly Reilly, Glasgow
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