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    Opening a new window for naturist swims

    David Ross reports on an experiment which could offer an exciting idea for the future.

    A former reservoir, Shaftesbury community pool is managed by enthusiastic firefighter Sarah Wheeler. She got in touch with BN in 2010, looking for new income streams. This led to the 2011 Great British Skinny Dip swim and in turn to Shaston Swim, which starts on April 10 (7-9 pm).

    If naturism is to grow, then I suggest that swimming is an obvious path to follow. We can rent other people’s assets and since failures won’t cost a lot, we can afford to innovate. Of course, the biggest prize of all would be regular naturist sessions in public swimming baths run by the proprietors. That does happen but is rare, and so this is a major coup for GBSD in its first year.

    The GBSD swim was a one-off, of course, receiving support from across the region, but it was a proof of concept for Sarah and we discussed the economics. It was not hard to see that there would be enough local support for her to make money on a weekday evening and it was for purely financial considerations that she agreed to go ahead.

    This said, the iconic hilltop town in North Dorset is a small place, so we agreed that as part of our support we will provide a “front”. All the financial risk stays with the pool, Naked Swim donated the £8 to register “shastonswim.org.uk” (using the ancient name that local newspapers used as shorthand) and to host a web page. Viv Jupp agreed to be local coordinator. Swimmers will pay £5 to the pool and 50p to be used for adverts in the local freesheet.

    The pool is basic, but delightful, with no exterior windows but a fully glazed roof. Sadly, this is not thermally efficient so the pool only opens in the summer and the first season runs on every second Tuesdays of the month from April to September. How can we build on this achievement? I hope that others will be inspired to seek out community pools across the country. Older pools, especially, have few windows and in these straitened times, why not take advantage of the operators’ need for cash?

    I hope that the 2012 season will make Shaston Swim a case study for others to follow.

    As planning starts for British Naturism’s first National Convention, members of the Online Forum are being asked to contribute to a survey to list the characteristics of pools. I hope the resulting database will be a useful tool to rule out or in potential venues for naturism.

    Meanwhile, Naked Swim has been enjoying a successful winter at its temporary home – the Thomas Hardye Leisure Centre in the Dorset county town. It is another spin-off from GBSD 2010, which I, as proprietor, saw as a one-off farewell to the soon-to-be-closed pool.

    When LA Fitness headquarters decided (without consulting friendly local management) that we were “uneconomic”, we were ejected from our home in Poole. So seeing Dorchester out until the new pool comes into service in Spring 2012 seemed a natural thing – especially as the locals told me how much the swim there had been missed over the last 10 years.

    We have just about broken even at £7 a head for a two-hour swim; the recent trend for more couples turning up has mirrored the phenomenon also seen at other local swims. Some of them have come back to naturist swimming after a break, others are naturists on holiday who haven’t swum nude in the UK before. Considering that I don’t examine ID or even ask for names and I’m recruiting completely new people to naturism, it is gratifying that my gender mix is about the same as that seen in established clubs.

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