Want to enjoy acres of beautiful woodland, an outdoor pool, a sauna, tennis courts and more? The only catch - you have to do so in the nude. Reporter KEELEY KNOWLES went along (dressed) to Bedfordshire’s only naturist club to find out what the hype is all about.
RECEPTIONIST Roni Fine, 54, had never thought of getting her kit off, for fun, in front of lots of people. That was until she met her now husband electrician Deane, 51.
“He brought me to the club at this time of year when all the bluebells were out and it was lovely.
“I thought… I could use that pool.” She hasn’t looked back and after just six months of joining the Blackthorns Sun Club, became a public relations officer along with her husband.
Founded in 1959, the club has been developing its current site near Sharnbrook since 1969 and it now boasts more than 114 units of members (individuals, couples and families).
Its popularity has increased over the years, to the extent where some people have even moved nearer to the club to enjoy more time there.
Roni puts it down to the community feel, social environment and of course… the pool.
“Our members are all ages and come from so many different walks of lives. We have plumbers, doctors and even a 94-year-old who have joined.
“It’s a good mix of people who come together who wouldn’t necessarily normally meet up.
“People are interested and intrigued about it.” Deane, who joined back in 2000 after finding the club on the Internet, enjoyed being naked from a young age.
He said: “Back in the 70s I didn’t really know about naturism but streaking was going on at the time and I tried it with a friend and it felt nice.” He also enjoys the equality of the club.
“You don’t have to dress to impress.
“The social barriers disappear and so you know if somebody’s a dustman or a lord.
“People think that when you are taking your clothes off it’s sexual but it’s not.
“In fact when people put their clothes on they say they find people more sexual.” As well as the social benefits, the club also offers wonders for your health.
Roni, who often goes there after a hard day at work to unwind, says: “It’s very destressing and not to mention the amount of vitamin D you get.” There is a range of sports played on the site including Miniten – a version of tennis and exclusive to the naturist world.
The rules are the same but the court is much shorter and narrower than a full-sized tennis court and instead of a racquet, players’ use a ‘thug’ which is a wooden box with an internal handle.
As well as hosting the National Miniten contest next month, the club holds the National Petanque tournament every four years.
Petanque is a form of French boules where the goal is, while standing with your feet together in a small circle, to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball, and is very popular at naturist clubs. Over the bank holiday weekend at the beginning of May, 52 couples from all over the country came to the Sun Club to compete.
Like the sports that it plays host to, the club appears to be just like something else (a holiday camp) but it has a twist - everybody at the holiday camp likes taking their clothes off, weather permitting of course.
Once you get past the initial shock of seeing so many naked bodies, you realise what a relaxing and enjoyable retreat the club is.
So the next time the sun is shining, just think you could be catching an all-over tan next to… an outdoor pool.
For more information visit www.blackthorns.org.uk