On August 5, 2020, our contributor, Amy Marsden, had the pleasure of attending the clothing optional visit of High Beeches Garden in Handcross, West Sussex. In her own words, here's a full review of how the day unfolded.
With the bulk of this summer’s clothing optional events postponed as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, I was very pleased to discover that the planned event at the High Beeches Garden was still going ahead.
I set off on a mini road-trip not knowing quite what to expect, but decided to avoid over-thinking it and go along with a completely open mind. Attending any event in this current climate – whether clothed or not – is still a novelty, and the memory of being stuck at home in full lockdown mode definitely makes you appreciate days like these all the more.
I arrived way ahead of schedule, hoping that I’d be able to check out the quaint-looking tearooms that I’d spotted on the venue’s website, but was a little disappointed to discover that the shop is actually closed on Wednesdays.
As a result, I had a little time to kill, but even sitting on the grass in the car park by the perimeter of the gardens is a calming experience. The gardens are located in a really quiet and secluded spot, and there was a gentle summer breeze drifting through the air the entire afternoon too.
Because I was so early, and with the venue already being closed to the general public, the lady at the ticket booth actually let a few of us in well ahead of time, saving us the relatively lengthy wait. Whilst initially pleased with this development, it also led to some slight anxiety on my part – as after I’d paid the £8 entry fee and headed through the entrance, I suddenly started second-guessing myself: “Wait, this is supposed to be a naked visit, right? What if there’s been a total misunderstanding, and me disrobing is actually really inappropriate? Am I really allowed to get naked here?!”
I hadn’t actually verified this with anyone on the day, and there were no specific signs up, but at this point it felt too late to go back and check. So I decided to walk a fair way into the gardens, completely out of view of anyone in the car park, and eventually parted with my clothing once firmly out of sight!
Still a newbie as it relates to baring all in public, walking around a public garden sans clothing and feeling the wind against my skin is still a very surreal and liberating experience. The fact that I was one of only a couple of people in the entire gardens in the early goings made it all the more bizarre, but the sense of freedom and literally being at one with nature made this a truly memorable occasion.
The garden is fairly large – boasting 27 acres of woodland, water gardens and exotic plants – and once you start making your way through, you realise that it’s on a slope and you walk completely downhill (and thus uphill on the way back to the main entrance later in the day).
About 10 minutes into my meander downhill, I heard the sound of running water... and just around the corner was the most picturesque pond you could ask for! I sat up on a bench that overlooked it all, and felt very lucky that I essentially had the area all to myself. I took a few selfies and even a quick video clip of me there to mark the occasion, before carrying on to see where the path would lead me next.
As I ventured a little ways back up the hill, I was very relieved to see in the distance some fellow naked visitors filtering their way through the gardens. This definitely calmed my nerves and provided the reassurance I needed that this was the clothing optional event I thought it was!
It seemed as though the majority of visitors were male, although there were quite a number of couples too, and the gender ratio seemed to balance out more later in the day. As a female there by myself I felt totally at ease, and despite being really busy – I’d estimate there were around 80-100 people there, in total – the gardens are spacious enough for you to find your own space and keep yourself to yourself, if that’s what you wanted. There were areas on the lawns not far from the entrance where people had congregated to socialise, but I was happy just strolling around and exploring the gardens.
Even after a couple of hours I kept finding new paths and different areas that I hadn’t yet discovered, and despite getting a little lost down at the far end of the gardens, getting back on track is a relatively simple task and you never feel totally at sea.
I eventually left at around 4pm when it started getting a little cooler, and it’s a location and event I’d definitely return to next year. I’ve only recently found the confidence to bare all in public, and compared to other events where people can often be in close proximity, this is a very relaxed affair and you are just left to do your own thing. I left feeling so much more confident with myself, and I’m so appreciative that events like this exist.
Thank you to the gardens for allowing us in, and let’s hope we can do it all over again soon!
The next clothing optional visit to High Beeches Garden is likely due to take place in 2021. Stay tuned to our website for more information as it becomes available.