‘From the time I first saw British Naturism Sunfolk, I fell in love with it. It was March – a damp, cool, misty day. The trees were still bare, holly was sprawling and the buildings were dull and tired. But there was something about the whole place; it was full of history and promise. And so began the season of Sunfolk for us as a family – a haven, four hours drive from our home up North,’ writes Fran.
When Covid, school and life allowed, myself and our daughters, 14 and 12, bundled into my little car and headed down South – joining my husband who often stayed on site to project manage.
At the outset, we met some of the ‘legacy' members (members of Sunfolk at the time of the BN acquisition) and listened fondly to their memories of spending time there over the years, often with their young children, now adults with families of their own. We flicked through the black and white photo albums, taking in the evolution of this beautiful site – pictures of members building a windmill, digging out tree stumps with axes and bare hands, and building an actual flushing toilet!
Our children explored the woodlands, finding old rope and trying desperately to make a swing in the old oak tree on the lawn. Dejected from their efforts they eventually gave up. And then, as if by magic, a rope swing appears – hanging perfectly from a thick branch, a chunky log for a seat. Legacy member Martin had seen the rope on the lawn and within minutes had grabbed a drill from the workshop, made a hole in a log and deftly sent the rope up into the trees for the swing. And so it now hangs – thanks Martin!
Early on, we teamed up with another family and formed a little bubble of Sunfolk energy and inspiration. We cleared forgotten pathways, donned white coats and painted the gates, hauled old items from the woods, scrubbed swimming pool tiles, dusted ancient cobwebs, weeded, pruned, cleared, cleaned...
As the season warmed, Sunfolk began to shine. Covid faded (a little) and our bubble expanded. Volunteers came, armed with bundles of enthusiasm and smiles. Everyone seems to want the absolute best for Sunfolk – it has that effect on people. The sun often shone (though not always!) and with a huge fire in the woods, all that was needed was thick gloves and boots! Miles and miles, trodden back and forth, dragging holly and fallen trees, cutting dense undergrowth and flinging everything on the fire (hanging around a little longer when it rained to warm up before the next journey!). And soon, the beauty of the woods unfolded – a clear path to walk and light shining through the trees.
Next, piles of wood chippings, left by the tree surgeon, just waiting for those willing volunteers to grab wheelbarrows and rakes (a memory of hours of their time Roy and Alan will never forget)! Where diggers had scraped roadways for cars, steam rollers trundled to flatten, and the wood chips were spread to create clear areas for caravans and camper vans.
As the time passed, job lists grew – projects created, then ticked off, done! The toilet block was painted, a wash-up kitchen built at the back for campers, paths re-done, the sun lounge repainted and re-carpeted (girl power thanks to Pam and Claire!), a barbeque was built (by the ever-practical Matt), new outdoor showers installed, areas cleared and tidied…
But it wasn’t all work all of the time. There is such a beauty to sharing space and working hard – friendships deepened, new friendships formed… In all honestly it rarely felt like ‘work’. We laughed (a lot), we ate together, had crazy fun in the pool. Our children brought fun and energy and laughter, and often got stuck in with whatever projects were going on around them. This is real community – people of all ages coming together and spending time together. Sharing something special.
By the time Sunfolk came to opening weekend, we were a bundle of satisfied exhaustion and nervous tension – would people like it? Had we done enough? Would they see the rustic appeal of this lovely woodland site just like we had…?
And I think the resounding answer is…. Yes!
People came and went throughout the late Summer – some to relax and spend time quietly enjoying the space, some to enjoy walking and cycling the surrounding areas, some to spend time with friends and make new ones. A highlight for many is the evening campfire – a chance to sit and relax and chat after a day of maybe sunbathing, reading, sauna time, a little swimming…
One of the loveliest times for me was the weekend where families and young people came – we weren’t able to have NKD this year, so we had a low-key weekend sharing Sunfolk together. It was just beautiful and epitomises what Naturism is for me – community and friendship. Where everyone regardless of age, or background, or anything else can just come together through the shared enjoyment of simple Naturism and spend time together. It is good for us – it is good for our children.
When I drove away from Sunfolk for the last time this year, my heart saddened a little. I miss it – the people, the most. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone I spent time with at Sunfolk – the amazing volunteers who helped make Sunfolk the welcoming place it is. And to those I met who were visiting – it was a pleasure.
I look forward to the coming year and what more Sunfolk can offer (the project list is already growing!). Maybe I will see you there…?