Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Exmoor

I love walking, especially in forests, on hills or by rivers. To strip down and just hike with shoes and a rucksack had always been on my mind, even whilst cowering indoors too nervous to go any further. A seminal stroll around a nature reserve 4 years ago was a pivotal moment. I realised I could do it...and it was brilliant.



Being in south-west England, the opportunity for a long naturist walk was limited to a select number of places. I wanted to limit as far as possible the chances to coming into contact with others. I knew there would be a chance. The experience was too nice to ignore though so I settled for Exmoor. Now as it happens this wasn't a bad choice at all. Exmoor has a fantastic variety of walks and the high moor particularly is beautifully remote and wild. It also offers amazing views, and enabled me to see fellow walkers a good distance away so it was a good choice for multiple reasons!



One particular walk starts at Dry Bridges (between Simonsbath and Lynton) and loops down Lank Coombe, up Badgworthy River, through Southern Wood, and back over the moor. 


It's about 8 miles and is perfect for a days hiking. The starting point...


...is as remote as you can realistically get without parking in a bog!


As it turns out though the walk is safe and follows bridle ways and footpaths. Only the wander down Lank Coombe is a slight risk, deviating away from established routes and instead follows the stream eastward towards the river. Being reasonably fit, the walk takes about 6 hours, including stops and skinny-dipping.


This was my first long walk with my shorts and t-shirt in my rucksack rather than on me and I've repeated it several times since. I've tried a few other routes and found them to be either more popular, or more boggy, or both. On this walk i've been able to stay undressed for about 90% of the time. It's been increasing as I've become more confident.


The first walk I was unsure about how to proceed. The big question was and remains...how far do I go in letting others see that I am nude? I've tried to make a little progress every year. I'm still quite cagey and nervous. I'm well aware of the history surrounding naturists and the police. Even with the chances minutely small of anything bad happening (especially given my location!), I remain acutely aware of the effect such a misadventure would have on me; not just with the police, but confidence-wise on having a negative reaction from another member of the public. I'm torn. I want to help normalise nudity and show that I simply want to enjoy the countryside 'my way' within the limits the law sets...but on the other hand I can't risk it. I need to wait until i'm retired to push boundaries any further!

So my walks have always included a pair of shorts instantly to hand, and it's easy to see people coming....unless of course you're trying to take pictures and you get distracted!


Yup...about 30 seconds after this photo, a couple wandered down the valley slope and appeared about 50 yards from me. The mammal flight response built over millions of years of evolution is highly tuned! I struggled with myself, wracked with indecision. In the end, I walked away slightly faster than the 'militant naturist' bit of my mind would have ideally wanted. The confidence to simply smile, 'raise the hat' and say 'Good morning!' is not there yet! Maybe in future I'll concentrate a bit more on enjoying the walk and rather less on taking photos. Twice on the first walk I became caught in the headlights!


The truth is though is that I've never had any bad response. In the last couple of years people have wandered closer. Never close enough to have a conversation but close enough to know. Last year I added skinny-dipping at Badgworthy Pond to the walk. Badgworthy River is stunning. A scenic valley between rolling moor hills. The river sparkles majestically. Springtime is awesome. I make a point of walking there in May/June time. The water is therefore freezing! The things I do for nude-kind! The river is a bit more popular than the rest of the walk and a campsite is placed close to Doone Country, the setting for Lorna Doone, the popular novel and TV period drama. The footpath passes right next to Badgworthy Pond and some other great places to sunbathe and eat picnics. This is over a mile from tea shops, tents and car parks though. The guidance about Joe Public rarely walking a few hundred yards from a car park is very true! 


This year then I stopped and ate lunch, sunbathed, and swam in the river without getting dressed. Folks walked past. Folks had a look over their shoulders at me. Folks walked on. That was it. I always walk in term time and during the main part of the day during the week, so visitors to the area are low, and dog walkers account for the majority.


Of course with Exmoor comes a wonderful selection of wildlife: the famous Exmoor ponies of course, cattle and sheep...the odd goat...numerous bird life. Lank Combe is quite narrow. I'd walked over a mile down the valley only to suddenly come face-to-face with a bull! Again I was wracked with indecision. Self-preservation won that one, and I ended up exhausted having walked up the side of the steep valley to avoid a confrontation. Probably not the confrontation I was expecting wearing just walking shoes, a backpack and sunglasses!


The purpose of this blog is this...Ok so I could have walked this beautiful trail dressed and yes it would have been nice, but it wouldn't have felt the same. To walk naked brings an extra dimension to life, one most people have never tapped into. A connection to nature and to spirit. I won't get too 'new age' but it really is difficult to describe. It's like feeling more alive...energised...fulfilled...happy! Then of course it's more comfortable. No sweat drenched walking-wear! I'm totally sold.


All of these walks are by myself. Walking with a group is great but for different reasons. I prefer walking alone, but walking with a group adds security and camaraderie. I have happily joined the annual walk over Bodmin Moor (in association with Nudefest) for the last three years and will be looking out for the date in 2015. British Naturism has published an excellent guide for naturist walkers; a handy leaflet with guidance if the worst came to the worst. BN also provides wonderful backup and support (like a union!) and simply having a BN membership card can provide some defence against a startled prude assuming the worst.

If I can inspire just one person to make the same leap of faith that I did, I would be so happy. Sitting indoors wondering...reading a ton of information...chatting with others...going for a little 'test walk'...joining BN...all of the build up...all of the things that got my confidence to where it was built enough to make the next step. It was worth it. One of the biggest confidence builders was reading about brilliant life changing walks others had done. This is mine.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely one on my list, thank you. And cooler weather will help this weekend I hope.

    ReplyDelete