Monday, 23 February 2015

Nature and the naturists: Druridge Bay as the last outpost before respectable Northumberland

Despite the many kilometres of written text in wildlife conservation manuals, or terabytes of e-text detailing how to manage sites, one subject which affects many a nature reserve is missing from the literature:  nature reserves and nudists. It is largely a coastal specialism, a bit like salt marshes and barnacles; I doubt there are many regular naturist spots on Cheviot.  However for anyone responsible for sand dune sites around the coast of Britain the sights you can see in sand dunes can be a source of problems. There have been some famous nature versus naturist clashes, Dawlish warren in Devon the most well known. A key point is that the naturists have often been there first, it is the conservationists who are the interlopers. Those of you who watched Robson Green’s  “More Tales From Northumberland” on the 16th will have been treated to a flash of dune nudity as skinny dippers braved the North sea for what has now been established as a regular North East Skinny Dip, a charity fund raiser.  Cheeky, but not really naturists. However the Bay does have a longer standing, more discrete nudist scene. You’ll not see it sign posted or on TV, for it is not entirely respectable, not sanctioned nor tame. Which is part of the charm of the Bay. I regularly drive up to Druridge Bay and the journey north from Newcastle is an odd mix. All the way up, until beyond Lynemouth you are still in the gravitational pull of the industrial north east. Even if there isn’t the industry anymore, the culture and history has roots deep into the ground and the coal. With this culture a love of the countryside, but not respectable: pigeons and ferreting, rough shooting and angling. North of Amble respectable Northumberland begins, almost exactly with the area of Outstanding Natural beauty designation. In-between lies the Bay, a transition, scarred but created by industry, shifting with the tides, sinking over the coal seams, with silent smelters and anti-tank bocks. A contentious arc of very different opinions and delights.  Part of the bay’s character. The respectable skinny dippers are a fleeting presence: the Bay has other heritages too.