‘I've always been one to strip off and jump into water, and have found myself more comfortable with the less I had to wear. Last Summer, more than any before, I found myself on a mission to swim naked in the sea as often, and for as long as into the year, as possible,’ says Ged Deignan
It really became a thing with the onset of the long, glorious, hot summer we experienced. I had been able to swim for most of the summer. A friend had joined me on holiday in Essex, and at midnight on the first night we walked along the shore at Frinton-on-Sea, up past the higgledy piggledy village of small white holiday huts, and on up the ‘Naze’, as locals called it. It was a warm moonlit night and we found ourselves on a deserted stretch of beach, with no buildings or any sign of life in sight. Although not strictly a Naturist spot, the gently folding waves upon the pebbled beach, were calling to us. We soon found ourselves stripped off in sea water that held the warmth from the intense summer sun. The feeling of being one with nature was magnified under the spotlight of a full moon. We spent a long time in the water, swimming back and forth, talking about life the universe and everything. It was like dancing a gentle waltz with nature.
The actual naturist beach is further along the coast from there, south of Clacton-on-Sea at St. Osyth. It is a shingle beach with sand-dunes and beyond that marshland, rich with wildlife. The far end of the beach is fenced off by a Nature Reserve. It can be accessed from a nearby holiday park, and then a long walk along the shingle beach, which can be hard going after a while. Alternatively, follow the seawall along, and as the tarmac path is replaced by sand, cut across the dunes which will take you out near the start of the naturist section. We spent most of the holiday swimming there.
I've been back a few more times since, whilst working in the area. One stormy day in Clacton, I had decided that after work I would just drive home to Southampton, without going for a swim. After all, the sea would be just too rough. When it came time to leave, the storm was blowing itself out and the rain had stopped. I thought I'd see what it was like on the beach one last time. As I had expected and hoped for, it was completely deserted. The sea was still very rough, the wind was blowing a gale, yet still it was warm and not unpleasant. As a swim was out of the question, I settled for a brisk walk. I stripped off, and headed for the waters edge and then along the shore. With the angry, white waves grabbing at my ankles, the wind blowing me about, the energy needed to move forward whilst completely naked, was not something I'd experienced before, and I found very invigorating.
Eastney beach in Portsmouth is not the most pretty to look at. Although there is a splendid view out across the water towards the Isle of Wight, the beach itself is overlooked by a decaying abandoned military installation. This does not take away from its popularity with the local naturist population - I found it to be more crowded through the summer than the rest of the long curving beach down to the south pier.
So for a quieter time, I headed towards Hill Head and Meon beach, south of Titchfield. This long stretch of beautiful coastline, sits at the foot of tall eroding cliffs. Here I soon got to know the regular naturist folk, who had their own spots dotted along the shore. One lady known to everyone who frequents the beach, was kind enough to invite me to join her social network of naturists.
As an ex-competitive swimmer herself, she sometimes seemed disappointed at my lack of stamina in the water. My amateur status was also shown by my tendency to just run into the sea and start swimming. I was quickly pulled up for this, and told the correct procedure was to enter the water slowly, then to just stay still, allowing the body to acclimatise, before using my muscles.
I am an author and my idea of finding somewhere to write, was only partially achieved. Little writing was done, as we spent long hours in interesting and varied conversations, in between bursts of swimming in the sea. It is ironic that most of the writing was done at the noisier, busier, Eastney beach. As the summer gave way to autumn, the swims became weekly at best, but I was pleased to still be in the sea through October and into November.
To see me through the winter, I joined a couple of clubs, the Halcyon and Barton naturist swims. I’ve met some great people and enlarged still further my network of naturist friends. The weather now being against me, I was happy to keep up the exercise that I had become accustomed to, indoors.
My friend with whom I enjoyed the midnight swim in Essex, invited me to join her on a short break and walking holiday in Cornwall. We arrived in the little picturesque fishing village of Polperro at night, in the middle of a raging storm. Although the weather was still blustery, the next day we were able to follow the little acorn symbols that indicated the coastal path. From a cliff top just outside the entrance to the cove, we looked down upon a large rock pool, that the locals described as being a popular natural swimming pool. I immediately wanted to strip off and go in. At first, the way down was not obvious, but we then came across a stairway that had been carved out of the rock itself, clearly many, many years ago. This haphazard descent was broken with a landing, half way down the cliff face. Here we met a couple of people, stood taking in the spectacular view. Having joined them in conversation for a while, I grew impatient, and so announced my intention to strip off and go into the pool. I carefully made my way down and picked a pathway across the rocks to the pool. The advice I had been given about how to enter cold water, and about staying still, came to mind. And so I entered. Then came straight back out again. It was cold, as in really cold! Nature did not feel so friendly, and was a reminder of the total respect that she deserves. I turned and tried again. This time It didn’t feel so cold as my body had begun to acclimatise, and I was able to go right in. I spent some time in the pool swimming back and forth, I climbed out on the seaward side, and explored the rocks that were out of sight from the cliff path. The November sun was still strong enough for this to be a pleasant experience, and at times I felt too warm more than anything.
And so my year was complete. Just one more date I had an eye on, and that was New Years day. Having set a new record for how cold I can go, I was confident that I would be able to do this. I posted a message on the BN forum, inviting people to join me for a New Years swim in Portsmouth. I received a few kind messages of support, and one other person turned up on the day. Being on January the 1st, I’ve now started a whole new Skinny Dipping Year…
Photo Credit : Mat Trescowthick