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1963 Article covering nudists at Studland

December 1999

Dear SUN,

I enclose a photocopy of an article that appeared in the October 1963 edition of Helios magazine. The second half relates to naturists using the Studland area from before World War I to 1963 and I wondered if you might be interested in using parts of the article in The Bare Essentials. I found the historical information fascinating and other SUN members might, also.

Allan C, Maidstone

Thanks for sending the article, Allan. The article is quite interesting, although it contains a number of historical and factual inaccuracies we reproduce it in full.

Naturist Beaches in Britain?

On the south coast of England to the west of the Isle of Wight is a large group of towns, those most widely known being Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole. Their total population is about a quarter of a million people many of whom work or derive some part of their income from a thriving holiday trade throughout the summer month. This holiday area concentrates upon the country to the west of the New Forest on the one hand and the coastal beaches of Poole Bay upon the other hand. At the extreme west of this large bay is a tongue of beach which encloses the mouth of Poole Harbour. This anchorage has a coastline of about two hundred kilometres which is completely developed for housing upon the east side but undeveloped heather heathland sloping up to the chalk down land of the Isle of Purbeck beyond the heath on the west side. 

The harbour holds a number of islands of which the largest, a bird sanctuary, is Brownsea Island being some 3 to 5 kilometres by two wide at the maximum distances. This island is placed close to the mouth of the harbour where a motor ferry operates a shuttle service from the Poole shore, or Haven Point, to the Purbeck shore, or Shell Bay, upon the other side. From Shell Bay a road runs over Studland Heath to the Purbeck Hills and eventually to Swanage some kilometres further on. To the north of this road is the undeveloped western shore of the harbour and to the south the land alters its appearance and between the road and the sea shore are two large fresh water lakes known as Big Sea and Little Sea. These are linked to the sea by a number of streams which run parallel to the road and cut the area into three equal strips.

This area was formed about five hundred years ago and subsequently a number of insects and plants have adapted themselves so completely to their environment that they are now unique. As a result the area is of great interest in checking scientific theories in a number of related studies. To preserve its condition intact the area was first designated as an area of great natural beauty by government decree and subsequently the owners offered to lease it at a nominal rent to the National Trust. This is a non-naturist organisation devoted to the preservation of areas of natural interest for the public good.

In this case naturists were keenly interested as the area has a long tradition of use by the public for sunbathing and swimming in a nude state which goes back to some time before the first world war. Therefore, as soon as the transfer of the lease was completed and announced in the local press Mr. Michael Keatering*, a local resident and producer of several naturist films (Sunswept and Travelling Light for example) approached the local conservancy officer, Mr. J.H. Hemsley regarding the official use of the beach by naturists. This official was in no position to grant the sanction of the National Trust to the proposals but he accepted the papers for consideration by the National Committee to determine the Conservancy's decision, and formulate a policy about naturism upon this and other areas under their control.

Until the first World War the local population was quite low and the coastal shore much more extensively available than at present. It is known that members of Poole Rowing Club swam nude from the area and that groups of schoolboys from local schools swam nude as official parties under school authority and finally that the owner of Brownsea Island would sometimes bring his guests and family upon a visit for similar purposes. After the first war intensive estate development on the coastline gradually barred swimmers from nude bathing until only Shell Bay and Studland beach were left for naturist use. The inevitable result was that various local people began to use this beach for nude swimming.

During the years between the first and second world wars the beach grew much wider as the indirect result of the construction of a tidal control scheme in the western end of Poole Bay. This was a groyne or mole which was built like a reef to cut Studland Bay from the remainder of Poole Bay. The lagoon inside this reef of large rocks and concrete blocks became quite shallow and warmer than the sea outside which provided a further reason for naturists to gather each weekend in the summer.

After the evacuation of France in 1940 the coast became a defence area and was mined and covered with beach defences. Some of these still appear after storms sweep the sand away sometimes. The similarity of the bay to the Normandy Coast chosen for the invasion resulted in several large and very intensive military exercise being held during which "battle& literally thousands of live rounds, rockets and bombs were fired into the beaches. Air bombardment was also used up to bombs of 3000 Kgm.

After the war the remaining rounds were removed, over a hundred thousand being found in the main ranges, and the shoreline was returned to civilian use. The naturists who came early found that the larger shell and bomb craters made excellent sun traps. Some others filled with impure water to become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and midges of a very hard biting variety. Naturism however continued to prosper, quite unofficially and against local laws until in one particularly good season the local police raided the beach and prosecuted a large number of sunbathers for naturist practices. Subsequently nudists became much more wary and even more numerous whilst police inspection became regular and normal. The object of these visits was to prevent thieves who reaped great rewards by emptying the pockets of clothes and cars left unattended. Naturists helped fighting against scrub fires which result from cigarette ends or other accidental causes. The area mainly used by naturists is also noticeably free of the litter which is the worst feature of the beach as a general rule. 

It is very much to be hoped that the decision of the National Committee of the National Trust will see fit to permit the use of at least a small area by naturists. F.J. 

 *Alias Craven Walker

First published in Helios magazine, October 1963. The writer also appears to have been an early fan of metrication!

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