View Full Version : Nude Hiker in Britain

08-19-2003, 06:42
Here's an interesting story about a long distance hike from "across the pond". To me, when the nude hiker describes the cows, he could also be talking about thru-hikers (guys). he he

From the NY Times today - August 19

Clad in Resolve, Nude Hiker Defies the British Body Image

Steve Gough, the naked rambler, swung one leg over a barbed wire fence, coming squeamishly close to a barb, and then dived into a muddy ditch filled with stinging nettles, steeling himself with assuring words.

"You just have to go for it," he mumbled, as he prepared to take the leap. "That's all. I'll just go for it."

Wearing nothing but a floppy olive-green hat, brown hiking boots and navy blue socks, and carrying a 60-or-so-pound rucksack on his back, Mr. Gough, a 44-year-old truck driver, is walking the length of Britain, from Land's End at the southern tip of England to John o'Groats at the northern end of Scotland.

He is on an 847-mile mission, for all to see, as he crosses cow pastures, bridges, farms and towns: to convince Britons that nudity is natural.

On the Continent, going au naturel has long been au courant Danish women sunbathe topless during lunch hour, and Germans swim naked in the middle of Berlin. But Britain has been slower to bare itself.

Which is where Mr. Gough, gangly, determined and sunbaked, steps in. He has been walking since June 16 and hopes to finish by Aug. 23.

"I want to raise awareness about the paranoia we have about our bodies," he explained. "Man plus naked equals pedophile or pervert or both. I hope I might widen those conclusions."

Mr. Gough, who wears half of his beard trimmed close, and the other half long and wispy, is not a naturist someone who goes nude in nature, typically away from non-naturists.

"I'm a nudist," he explained. "When it gets cold, I put lots of clothes on. When it's hot, I like to take them off."

"I want people to become conscious that we are ashamed of our bodies," he added. "We have such a problem with our bodies."

Nora Gough, his mother, who lives in Eastleigh, Hampshire, where Mr. Gough lives in a camper, cringes over his quest. Back at home, she hastens to add, he was always fully clothed, except in the bath.

"The walk itself is good because of the endurance," Mrs. Gough said on the telephone. "If only he had clothes. I tried to reason with him, but he's got his mind set, as you can see. I don't welcome the publicity let's put it that way."

Naturists, fearing a strong reaction, do not approve either. "You don't want to force naturism on people who don't want to see it," said Mike Berridge, the public relations officer for British Naturism, which has 17,000 members.

For Mr. Gough, that is all beside the point. He came to nudity late in life, in the past two years, while living near Vancouver with his girlfriend and their two young children. He experimented first at home (in front of his girlfriend's family, no less), then in his courtyard. In time, he grew bolder. "I went to Blockbuster to return a video," he said.

But convincing Britain that nude is not altogether rude has not been without its difficulties.

He sleeps out in nature, under his collapsible tent. He knocks on doors (clothed) to ask permission to charge his cellphone. He has grown skinny, walking 20 miles a day. He chafes, especially around the hips, where his backpack rests.

And once, he was even thrashed, by two men who did not appear to share his philosophy. "You can't do that in front of kids no less," Mr. Gough recalls one of the gentlemen saying. "Then they pushed me down and kicked me in the face. There was blood everywhere."

On the roadways here, most Scots remain stone-faced, staring straight ahead, in a kind of emotional disconnect, as they drive past. Some honk. Others shout insults. A few laugh. One guy bought him a meal.

But his biggest problem has been the police. A mere 24 hours after he started his journey, Mr. Gough was arrested in Cornwall, where he refused police orders to put on his skivvies. [It was the first of 10 arrests, so far, a pattern that has slowed him considerably.]

Because nudity is not against the law, Mr. Gough is typically charged with disturbing the peace or disrupting public order. He has appeared nude in court in Cornwall. A waist-high screen was placed in front of him, to shield his lower half from view. When he rose, a bailiff was on hand to place a blanket around him.

He also wound up in a psychiatric hospital near Selkirk, Scotland, after the police were unsure what to do with him. He was thankful, in a way, because it gave him a chance to warm up, drink some tea, floss his teeth, chat with a "young, attractive doctor" and gorge on sandwiches.

The psychiatrists asked him questions, he recalled: "Had I slept much? How had I been feeling? Do I feel I'm on a mission?"

"I was like, `What would a sane person say?' Not me," he explained. "I don't want to be labeled a nut."

His answers seemed to satisfy the shrinks, and they let him go.

Some believe that his biggest challenge lies ahead in the Highlands of Scotland, where the dreaded midges teeny, biting insects travel in clouds and feast on exposed skin.

Mr. Gough said he tried not to think about the future much. It is a bit bleak. His girlfriend left him (the episode with her family, alas), and she does not want him to see his two young children, which breaks his heart, he said. "I think love is letting people be themselves," he said, clearly torn. "I'm setting an example for that."

But right now, the cows fill his thoughts. "You have to make sure there are no cows around when you sleep," he said. They pass gas, they urinate, they cough all the time. "They're a bit uncouth, really," he said, with a laugh.

08-19-2003, 08:26
What the hell is he carrying in his pack that weighs 60lbs if he doesn't wear many clothes?

Rick Bayley
12-11-2003, 12:35
Steve Gough has become quite famous here in the UK on his mission to walk from one end of the country to the other starkers.

He's a bit of a nut and comes across a little pious and naive in interviews and initially I didn't have much sympathy for the man.

But you gotta admire the guy's determination. He started way back in the early summer when nude hiking was just about possible, even in our soggy climate. The poor bloke should have reached his destination weeks ago but just keeps on getting arrested. When they let him go, he just gets his kit off again and gets right back on the trail. He didn't seem to have much trouble in England, but rural Scotaland is a little more conservative, I guess. Now, most people reckon they should just let him finish his hike before the Highland snows really set in and only those carrying a microscope will really know if he's nekkid or not.

Steve will be spending Christmas behind bars this year. One UK outdoors site www.outdoorsmagic.co.uk published his address. Why not cheeer him up and drop him a card? Steve Gough, HM Prison Porterfield, Inverness, IV2 3HH, Scotland.

By the way, a few years ago I heard about 'Hike Naked Day' on the AT. Was this ever much of a tradition?