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    “You’re never too young to go clubbing!”

    Roni Fine, regular BN contributor and PRO for Blackthorns, BN club of the year 2005, talks to families in naturism

    The media and those new to naturism are often surprised by the numbers of young people and families that frequent the naturist venues around the UK - having mistakenly thought of it as the pastime of the elderly. But what better way of escaping the stress of modern life than to seek relaxation in a peaceful setting such as a naturist club? It encourages families to spend quality time together and unites all ages.

    I love the Welsh naturist beach of Morfa Dyffryn, and the vast expanse of sea and sand enhance my feelings of total freedom, but it does not have the extra factors which I take for granted when attending Blackthorns. I find comfort in the fact that everyone around me is a friend, not a threat, and I can close my eyes and soak up the atmosphere without sneaking a worried look every time I hear footsteps.

    I believe there are some who have a dislike of clubs, thinking they are run by packs of old fogeys on committees. This is certainly not the true picture! Yes, we have rules - but they are guidelines for the members and obviously someone has to implement them. The fact that we have a certain amount of exclusivity provides us with the very foundation of safety and security that people feel comfortable with.

    I am pleased to be able to say that children make our club what it is and give far more to it than they perhaps realise. They are (on the whole!) a pleasure to have around. Where else would adults say that of youngsters? They are usually viewed as trouble, for fear of what mischief they might be up to. Instead, ours add some fun and family feelings for us all.

    It transpires that all the adults keep a watchful eye over the children, and this creates a feeling of community spirit and peace of mind. The children gain extra freedom and the parents gain extra relaxation time! You just don’t get this in public parks or leisure centres where you can’t take your eyes off them for a moment. We generally tell children to beware of strangers, and adults are wary of helping a child for fear of retribution. In this often-wicked world nowhere is safe, but Blackthorns comes very close!

    I spoke to some of our youngsters just recently and was delighted to hear such positive reactions to the question of whether it is beneficial being a member of a naturist club.

    They were all in agreement that it has made them more confident in a variety of ways, and in this world of media attention to fashion and body image they have a lot to contend with. There are so many anorexic role models for them, and young girls, in particular, end up unwell in attempting to follow their example.

    Of course, they still like to follow fashion trends, but they don’t seem as obsessed with their body shape and weight as is the general trend.

    Annie (14) and Emma (15), who first attended at ages 10 and 11, said, "We thought it was really “cool” (N.B. to us oldies that means trendy and even exciting!) when we first came here, and seeing naked people didn’t worry us in the slightest!"

    This is the general trend: children are far more accepting of the human body, and it is often the adults who introduce prejudices and worries. Emma told me, “I only wish we’d come here sooner.” Annie said, “Forming such close friendships here has taught me to make close friends, with both sexes, at school.” They actually said, without any prompting, that they felt like “one big family!” How nice is that?!

    I was concerned that the children might be cutting themselves off from other close relationships only forged within school, but they insist that they have school life and club life, with home life being the in-between state. They even insist it doesn’t get in the way of their homework. I`m not sure how much homework actually gets done over the weekend at the club, but that would probably be the same if at home and something for the parents to sort out!!

    Julia, mother of 5-year-old Ronnie, told me, “These kids of all ages just gel. I couldn’t let him have this freedom at home, and I certainly wouldn’t allow him in the park, as there is always the possibility of remnants of drug-taking and drinking, and I don’t want him mixing with the local lads as he gets older and getting caught up in their bad ways.” She also saw health benefits: “Ronnie could easily get overweight, and by being here he is getting far more exercise playing football and swimming, whereas if at home all weekend he would invariably end up in front of the telly or computer.”

    Howard is father to Chloe (11) and Ross (16), and is positive that naturism is making them more confident in themselves and with others. “They grow up accepting nudity as natural,” he explains, “ - they don’t make a big thing of it and neither should adults. My daughter has the advantage of spending time with the older girls and has all the girlie chats and shopping expeditions with them that all little girls would love. I can’t imagine her having anything like the freedom she has if we were only at home.”

    We have several families that can claim three generations as current members. Lee and Jane came to the club with their parents and are now bringing their son, Jamie (15). Lee says he thinks the reason naturist clubs work so well is that everyone is equal. “There are no barriers,” he says, “no one knows anyone before meeting here and then they are all part of the same thing.” When asked if he thought it was beneficial growing up in Blackthorns, he replied with a smile, ”I’ve loved it!” Lee spoke of the respect that others had pointed out: “The kids have respect for the adults here, and they talk to each other and mix with all ages. I’d avoid groups of teenagers on street corners myself, and I don’t want my son being part of that.”

    Jamie agreed: “If I were spending my time at home, I would be watching films and playing computer games with my friends, but when I’m here I have the pool to use and can play sports whenever I want.” As his Mum, Jane, was quick to point out, “We could never afford to go out as often as a family, or play all the sports we do, if we had to pay each time at a public pool or sports centre. But here, we get it all year round at no extra cost. It’s great value for money!” Maybe because naturism has become second nature to her, Jane says, “I don’t view it as a naturist club first and sports and social club afterwards - it is just “the club” and it is all part of the package.”

    She, like us all, takes it for granted that we have the extra comfort of being undressed when the temperature allows it. No big deal!

    Often the youngsters go through a stage when they do become a little more self-conscious and remain dressed, but they all know the rule regarding the pool: absolutely no swimwear! It’s funny how they can then shed their towels and inhibitions without a second thought! We must remember that they are here because their parents bring them, and we therefore make allowances and let them dress as and when it suits them.

    Teenagers often take a break from attending here if university or change of lifestyle dictates, but it is pleasing to see that they invariably drift back and rejoin, usually bringing a partner with them.

    Naturism might be what brings us together, but I’m pleased to report it is then the family feeling that keeps us together and makes Blackthorns what it is - a good place to be. I’m sure it is the same for many a club, and I recommend that you join one today!!

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