I suppose it goes without saying that we naturists are compulsive creatures. Show us a suitable beach or stretch of water and we’re more than likely to strip off and head for it at the drop of a bottle of sun lotion.
Thus, the concept of wild swimming should be right up our street. Wild swimmers don’t do ‘it’ in traditional man-made pools, but rather in more natural locations such as rivers, lakes and waterfalls.
According to Daniel Start, author of Wild Swimming France, the benefits of wild swimming are well-documented; it’s great fun, it’s good for your health and it re-establishes our connection with nature.
All those things tick the right boxes with naturists and Wild Swimming France features plenty of places across that rugged and spectacular country where the experience can be enjoyed sans costumes. This is Daniel’s third book on the subject, after Wild Swimming and Wild Swimming Coast. It took three years to research and details over 400 possible locations, from the tranquil river beaches of the Ardeche and the secret waterfalls of the Languedoc to the shimmering aquamarine pools of Corsica and the Alps.
“France is the perfect place for wild swimming and it’s right on the doorstep of the United Kingdom,’ said Daniel.
“There are lakes in France that look as good as those in Costa Rica and Indonesia and we found one waterfall, La Cascade, in the Jura area, which is just fabulous. When we saw it, we thought we had arrived in Hawaii.”
“France is four times the size of the UK per head of population and so there is much more wild land than in England. You aren’t near a city when you visit any of the locations in the book so it’s pretty easy to skinny-dip.”
It’s fairly obvious that alongside wild swimming goes wild camping; these venues aren’t exactly by the side of the road, so you do need camping equipment and although wild camping is technically illegal in France, a little common sense is all that is required.
“If you put up your tent at the right time of the day, just before nightfall, then take it down early in the morning, no-one minds,” said Daniel who is an experienced wild camper.
Field research for the book was done over three summers, 2009-11, with a varied collection of friends and, on the last trip, Daniel’s wife Tanya and baby daughter Rose.
“We got amazingly fit doing the research because we had to do a lot of kayaking and canoeing,” he said. “We would often visit ten places a day which we had heard about and roughly half of all the sites we visited have made it into the book.
“I think my favourite is La Cascade; just the surprise of finding it was enough. It’s in the middle of pretty rolling countryside and you just don’t expect to see this waterfall appear.
“Some of the venues in Corsica are fabulous; there are white marble granite rocks and long slides down into the pools.”
Newcomers to wild swimming might think diving into natural pools could be a little on the chilly side but the geography of France means you won’t get too much of a shock when you leap in.
“Their mountains are in the south, not the north like ours, so rivers which flow from them are refreshing but not cold,” said Daniel. “A lot of the rivers emerge from caves and they can be around nine degrees Centigrade but in places like the Loire and Dordogne, the water is tepid; you could certainly swim in the lakes in the south until late-October.”
● As well as the books, Daniel has set up a website at www.wildswimming.co.uk and wants naturists to help him with ideas for a new section on nude wild swimming. He can be contacted via the website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org