The naked truth: Nudists bare all about their stripped back way of life - with video
Of all the things you’d expect to see drifting along the Shropshire Union Canal, 40 naturists scoffing fish and chips is pretty low down on the list.
As an icy wind sweeps through the air, instead of putting on extra layers Mick Goody is taking them off.
“Nights like this do make you question your sanity,” he smiles as he casts aside the last stitch of clothing.
WATCH - Canal boat trip with naturists:
He is one of about 40 naked people crammed on board The Shropshire Star canal boat at Norbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal, on an evening out for fish and chips.
The event is organised by 68-year-old John Rodgers from Craven Arms – a member of British Naturism who has been pursuing this lifestyle since 2006.
“I decided it was interesting being naked in appropriate situations,” he says. “I like walking and discovered there was a naked walking group in existence so I started going on those. The other thing is skinny dipping, most people who try that really appreciate the difference.”
He admits that at first stripping off in public was nerve-wracking.
“I was initially looking for a designated beach, but there’s not many of those about, and the reality is that the unofficial beaches are really no different at the end of the day. But when you’re new to it having an official sign you think ‘it’s okay’.” John, a retired signal worker on the railways, is married but says his wife is not a naturist.
“She’s not keen on it,” he says. “She thinks we’re a load of lunatics. But she’s well used to these events now.”
As the boat chugs along the canal anybody passing might get a bit of a shock. But John says on the whole most people are receptive.
“Sometimes people breeze past, some perhaps pull a face and others stop for a chat,” says John. “On one of the walks we emerged from a wood into some open space and there was a woman walking a dog. There were probably about 30 of us all together and we ended up posing for a picture for her Facebook.
“Occasionally you get people who aren’t very keen or happy about it. Sometimes you will put on a simple cover up for anybody but if you were aware you were going to run into families with children then you would certainly cover up in advance.
“In general we are accepted. We don’t feel like a persecuted minority or anything like that.”
Nick Caunt is the president of British Naturism, a 50-year-old organisation with more than 9,000 members. He and his wife Jane attend events nationwide, from cycle rides to dinner parties.
“Naturism is much more than just nudity,” says Nick. “It’s an essential thing, an innocent feeling and something that is very deep within you really. Naturism is a lot about mind, body and soul.
“I don’t even think about it as getting my clothes off, it’s more not putting my clothes on.
“I normally sleep naked anyway and when I’m in a naturist environment I get up without getting dressed, make a cup of coffee like everyone else and it just seems completely normal to just carry on. So it’s not always a conscious decision to take your clothes off. You just don’t get dressed when you don’t need to, really.
“It’s very addictive. You find it hard to want to go camping, or on a beach, or go swimming again without thinking ‘why on earth do I want to do all these artificial things?’, when you want to do the natural thing. The first time you swim naked in the wild it’s very hard not to notice that its such a fulfilling experience.”
Nick’s first go at naturism came when he was on holiday with Jane in 2002.
“I found out just along from where we were there was a small naturist beach, which seemed an ideal place to give it a try,” he says. “I sneaked off two or three times during that holiday. I was surprised that when Jane learned my bottom had caught the sun that she was okay with it. I had always been thinking how on earth would I raise this subject.”
Jane was fully on board and says that since she has started going to naturism events that she has been able to feel more confident.
“I’m a larger lady, but I lose all sense of that because nobody cares,” she says. “They don’t care how old you are, what you look like, or how big you are, people are just comfortable with each other and in their own skin. It’s a great leveller, you are all equal.
“I feel accepted in this community. We all have something in common.”
Diane and Mick Goody have been married for 47 years and have been naturists for the last 15.
“We’ve always been very easy about no clothes. We lived on a farm once and never bothered much then,” says Mick, 70. “It’s a feeling of freedom. If you’re overweight like I am then you feel a damn sight more comfortable then having clothes binding you up.
“It’s the freedom of being yourself.”
The couple, who travelled from Cambridge and stayed at Telford Naturist Club, say they have had mixed reactions from the public.
“People’s perception can be that we are up to something,” he adds. “Some just can’t accept the fact that we just feel free-er without our clothes and that we are no threat to anybody.”
Norbury Wharf Limited, which organises regular fish and chip cruises, has been planning for the event and director David Ray manned the bar and served the fish and chips.
He said: “We did give it some thought, but we decided that this was simply another booking and that if our customers wished to travel and eat naked we would be able to accommodate them.”