A group of naked ramblers has sparked controversy by organising walks through popular beauty spots.
By Richard Savill (Published: 5:20PM BST 23 Aug 2009)
Unsuspecting dog walkers and horseriders encountered the group of 28 nude walkers on the South Downs Way above the Sussex village of South Harting.
Sheila Torrens, who was out with her six-month old border collie, Barney, said: “The chap in the lead said ‘We’re a group of naturist walkers. Do you have any objection to naked bodies?’
“I was slightly taken aback, and without thinking said I didn’t. They were wearing little wraps like Velcro skirts around their lower half, and there and then they took them off in front of me. I just averted my eyes and kept going.”
Ann Songhurst, 54, a part-time civil servant on a riding holiday, said: “We thought it was quite funny galloping up from the back of Harting Down to come across this line of bare bottoms with rucksacks. It was very oh-my-goodness-me.
“It was only later that we thought of the consequences of what it might have meant for young mothers with children meeting them.”
Barbara Bullard-Smith, 58, a retired sixth-form head teacher from Chichester who was leading riders from an equestrian bed and breakfast centre, Rural Rides, said: “When we realised the walkers were naked except for the odd camera, we turned the horses and gave them a gallop the other way.”
Martin Bullen, chairman of the Singles Outdoor Club, and a retired design engineer from Frome, Somerset, said “We hold 17 walks a year all over the south on mid-week days to reduce the probability of confronting the general public. It is not our intention to cause distress.”
A spokesman for British Naturism added: “We have many groups who like to get involved in walking. They have no wish to cause trouble and simple nudity is specifically not an offence under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.”
SOC walking website: http://www.socwalks.fsnet.co.uk/