Beach Report - Fairlight Glen in East Sussex
To kick-start our brand new series of beach reports, Britain Uncovered decided to make the relatively short road-trip down to Fairlight Glen on the East Sussex coast – and joining us for this inaugural visit was friend of the site and body positivity model, Elizabeth K, who was keen to explore what this unofficial nudist beach had to offer. Here’s a full round-up of how our shoreline escapade unfolded!
The above slideshow features our full gallery of images from the day - so be sure to have a look around using the cursor on the right-hand side!
An outing that was several months in the making – primarily due to inclement weather that forced our initial date to be rained off several weeks prior – we were thankful that the great British summer finally reared its head in time for our rearranged date, and on May 31, we were officially in the clear for Britain Uncovered’s first ever beach visit.
Over the past 10 months or so, our website has strived to uncover the many different ways in which people are developing their body confidence and overall levels of self-acceptance, and up until now, much of our focus has been on body positivity art, sauna visits, life modelling, and of course, our very own original photoshoots. However, baring all during a beach visit can be just as powerful and liberating in the right circumstances, and, as Beth Harrison attested to in one of our early interviews following a visit to a nudist beach in Greece: “There is something so wonderful about swimming naked under the sun, it's like the rawest form of being in nature, and I adored it. The feeling of just casting off all your cares along with your clothes and enjoying just existing in the beauty around you is such a wonderfully free feeling; and I definitely will do it again.”
Britain Uncovered wholeheartedly echoes these sentiments, and in fact, more or less everyone we have interviewed about their own outdoor clothes-free experiences has shared similar views and observations. Pushing your body hang-ups to the side, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and baring all during a beach visit can have a hugely beneficial and long-lasting impact on an individual’s mental health and overall self-perception, and can really help people struggling with self-image issues to accept and appreciate themselves exactly as they are. But taking that first plunge (both figuratively and literally) can often be quite daunting, and it’s possible that many of our readers may not know quite where to start – so hopefully this new series of beach reports will shed some light on some of the country’s best coastline destinations and help provide a gentle nudge towards a mid-summer’s skinny dip or two.
Having visited Fairlight Glen several times in years gone by, this serene and picturesque spot seemed like the ideal location for our first ever beach report, as it’s somewhat of a hidden gem and definitely off the beaten track – which makes it a good option not only for those in search of some peace and quiet, but doubly so for those who might be interested in having a naked splash without having to worry about the prying eyes of the public watching their every move. We’ve all seen the crowded scenes at more renowned beaches such as Brighton and Bournemouth, but just several miles along the coast, the beach at Fairlight feels comparatively deserted by contrast – and if our most recent visit is anything to go by, you might just find that you have a very large chunk of the beach practically all to yourself!
As the day of our visit coincided with the late May Bank Holiday, we were keen to hit the roads relatively early to keep one step ahead of the crowds, and Elizabeth and I agreed to meet up at the Fairlight Road Picnic Site – which is just one area within the entire Hastings Country Park site – shortly before 10.30am. Although parking hasn’t typically proved difficult in the past, the combination of the bank holiday, the clear blue skies and the recent end of lockdown several weeks prior meant that it was a lot busier than usual, and the 32 spaces had more or less evaporated by the time we were en route down to the beach. Parking for the day will set you back £3.50, and, as the name of the site suggests, there’s a small park with a few benches alongside the car park should you wish to chill out and have some lunch before heading out on your clothes-free escapades.
Despite the presence of a huge map of the area that sits right by the entrance to the site, the beach is notoriously difficult to find for first-timers, so it’s well worth planning out your route ahead of time, as one misstep can quickly lead you astray. For the record, there are several different ways of reaching the beach (due to the sprawling nature of the country park, which you have to navigate before finally reaching the shoreline), but for this report, we’ll keep things simple and refer only to our chosen route on the day in question. To the side of the map is a sign that reads, “Take nothing but photographs and memories; and leave nothing but footprints”, and with this in mind, we officially began our descent downhill in search of this elusive hidden beach!
The walk down to the beach takes around 20 minutes or so, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the countryside just moments after setting off from the car park. Cross the road and head down the single-path road opposite you, and within minutes you’ll see the sea come into view on the horizon off in the distance. At the bottom of the hill, bear right and follow the path around, before heading left at the wooden signposts and continuing on through the country park where you’ll soon reach the Fairlight Glen woodland area shortly thereafter. At this point the journey becomes particularly picturesque, as you’ll continue downhill past a dripping well and through the entire nature reserve, and – although the final stretch has officially been closed off by the local council – those willing to accept the risks are able to climb down some final rocky cliffs before the beach finally comes into view!
Immediately before stepping foot onto the beach is a sign painted onto the side of a tree in big white letters that reads, “Nude beach ahead!” Although this might serve as a warning to those unsuspecting souls who were previously unaware of its presence, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would turn around and head back home given the effort required to get to this point – and if anything, the majority of folk down at the beach seemed to be here entirely for this very reason, with those choosing to remain clothed seemingly in the minority.
When we arrived on the beach shortly before 11am, the tide was nearly all the way out, and as a result, the beach was vast and expansive. We decided to walk a little way down from the main stretch in the hopes of finding a quiet and completely desolate spot for our own quiet use, and it wouldn’t take long for us to find a suitably private area not too far from where we had initially arrived. I’d estimate that there may have been 20 or so people on the beach at this hour, so it was far from busy to begin with, and the low tide provided ample room and ensured everyone had as much breathing space as they desired.
Walking along the beach at low tide is relatively straightforward, thanks to the sandy beach that emerges at the shoreline, but the persistent rocks which blight the beach – which have formed due to erosion of the cliffs, hence why the path down is officially closed off to the public – do make it tricky to navigate, and the entire process can at times feel rather exhausting! We would argue that it’s definitely worth the effort though, and once we had reached an area down by the water that looked like a tranquil spot, and without another person in sight, we decided to set ourselves down and take a much-needed breather!
On a clear day, you can actually see across the English Channel and over to France, and it’s so close in fact that, last September, the beach made headlines when a migrant boat arrived ashore – and in true British style, the beach-goers present that day made them feel instantly at home and responded by offering cups of tea! It’s also so close that my phone actually sent me a “Welcome to France” text message, complete with roaming tariffs – and given the state of affairs as it relates to international travel at present, this may actually be the closest we get to an overseas holiday all year. All of this helps to add to the feeling that you’re somewhere completely different and disconnected to the rest of the country, and in many respects it actually does feel as though you could be overseas. Sure, the path down does require some effort, and your phone signal will be down the entire time you’re there, but this all adds to the location’s charm and mystique in our view, and those in search of some solitude and time away from it all will feel perfectly at home down on these secluded Sussex shores.
Keen to test the waters, Elizabeth changed into her bikini and headed into the sea for a quick dip, and we quickly discovered that the water wasn’t quite as cool as we’d first feared – which was fortunate, because with the tide rushing up a lot quicker than we’d anticipated, it soon became apparent that we were going to be getting a feel of it whether we wanted to or not! I waded into the water behind Elizabeth with camera in hand in an effort to document our day, and although it was fun being back in the sea after goodness knows how long, it’s dangerously rocky under foot and virtually impossible to see where you’re stepping – so do be careful before rushing in and causing yourself some proper damage. We did get a few cuts and grazes along the way and the blood was flowing, but that’s part of the charm, right?
Having decided that the coast was clear, and safe in the knowledge that there was nobody else around (other than a guy way off in the distance who seemed to be embarking on a naked morning jog), Elizabeth opted to make the most of the opportunity and decided to ditch the bikini and scamper back into the sea for a clothes-free dip, just as nature intended! Although I got the sense that Elizabeth found being naked in such a public setting somewhat surreal for the first few moments, it didn’t take long for her to find her comfort zone and embrace the moment – and the following hour of dips in and out of the water absolutely flew by! Much of this is chronicled in our slideshow at the top of the page, and we really hope the images do justice to how much of a fun, liberating and freeing experience this was.
With the tide continuing to rush in at a surprisingly fast pace, we decided to put the camera down and just chill out for a little while, before calling it a day and resigning ourselves to the long, arduous journey back up the hill to the car park. Although Elizabeth absolutely blitzed the walk back and put me to shame, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the climb back could be challenging for some – so be warned! For as lush as the beach and all its surroundings are, the entire day does feel like a mini-workout, so do make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared before making your journey. It’s not for the faint of heart!
All in all, it was a lovely day exploring the East Sussex coastline, and the opportunity for a clothes-free dip at the end of it was the icing on the cake. If you’re remotely interested in going for a paddle sans clothing, the beach is an absolute must-visit and it is, in many respects, the perfect entry-level location for those who perhaps haven’t dared to bare all before now. The area is so spacious and cut off that it feels like your own private slice of the world – especially at low tide when there’s just so much more space to work with – so if you’re seeking to get away from it all and find a spot that feels exclusively your own, this is definitely the place to be!
- I would like to extend a special thanks to Elizabeth; not only for being our willing volunteer, but for also being such great company throughout our trip! As a body positivity model, Elizabeth – who also took part in our launch shoot at the Belt Craft Studios back in October 2020 – has done really great things to promote the self-love cause over the past year or so, and it was such a pleasure having her involved once again for our first ever beach report.