© 2005 -
Naturism, for Blackthorns, started in 1958 when the World Naturist Congress was held at Woburn Abbey, after which, a small group were determined to form a club in Bedfordshire.
This led to the formation of Bedfordia Sun Club and they met at The Sun Hotel in Hitchin in the November of 1959. The annual subscription was ten shillings.
By 1961 the club rented one and a quarter acres of virgin woodland at Thurleigh, with access across a field, but with no road of its own.
Shortly afterwards, due to “Bedfordia” being a commonly used name locally, and due to the indigenous tree cover at the site, the club changed its name to “Blackthorns”.
At last they had somewhere to meet and be naturist!
Work commenced on a well to secure a water supply.
In 1962 further developments included a volley-
A pool was constructed of scaffolding poles and barrage balloon fabric.
September 16th saw the first AGM.
1963 was important in that the club grounds were officially opened on June 30th and the local paper, The Bedfordshire Times, reported the event at some length.
Trouble loomed later that year when the land had new owners and the club were evicted.
Attempts were made to purchase “Bottom Spinney”, a 19 acre wood at Cranfield. It even made it to The Daily Mirror, in March of 1964 but the purchase failed due to a lot of local opposition. The club was, once again, without land on which to practise naturism. However, the members stayed together and in 1966, at one of their regular meetings, Pippin Wood was first brought to their attention.
It was then an overgrown wood that had been stripped of the majority of its trees for timber in 1951, after having been used as an ammunitions store for the American Forces during WW2.
This was a great shame as Pippin Wood, Semi-
There then followed a search for the owner and a limited company was formed to raise funds to purchase the land at £100 per acre, and that’s how “Pippin Enterprises Ltd.” came about.
The first AGM was held in September of 1969, planning permission was granted in May 1970 and the club bought its first piece of equipment, a scythe!
There were 28 members that year, all of them keen to develop the club now that they were land owners and no one would be telling them to move on!
During 1971 The County Council compulsory purchased 3 acres of land for £601 and a water supply to a single tap, on the lawn, was laid at a cost of £817.
That bit of land, which the council used to store road stone, whilst they were working in the area, was later bought back and it’s still a piece of firm ground upon which we host the BN National Petanque games.
Blackthorns appeared on BBC TV the following year, as part of the programme called, “On Camera”. Naturism was taking off and it attracted lots of attention, and Blackthorns had members keen to make it successful and happy to be part of the news coverage, locally and nationally.
The building of the toilet block came next, with a cesspit, costing just over a thousand pounds. A small generator supplied power to a shed and a 15ft diameter pool was donated and installed for the summer.
The site was officially opened in August 1973 and Anglia TV covered the event with a host of newspapers featuring it as, “A Garden of Eden” and there was brilliant sunshine and a feeling of success!
There were now 76 membership units.
The club joined CCBN and a tractor was bought!
Volley Ball and Miniten courts came next and in 1977 the children’s play ground, the introduction of mains water and work started on building the clubhouse.
A bulk Calor Gas supply provided heat and a new diesel generator gave us light.
Having paid for a telephone line, a red telephone box was bought to house the phone, and though that was later moved indoors to the office, the same telephone box now houses a phone that is able to call the emergency services.
Work continued on the shower block and by 1983 the communal BBQ was built and in October, mains electricity arrived!
Lighting, heating and all facilities in the clubhouse were instantly improved and this meant the club could hold functions and produce meals from the kitchen.
We take all the amenities for granted but we should be very thankful for the pioneers who worked hard to form the basis of our club as they didn’t let the total lack of electric, gas or water, toilets and showers, put them off!
They turned up every weekend to work really hard at making the club what it is today and we should never forget them, their enthusiasm, their skills and their energy!
Of course that was only the start of things, the club has never stopped evolving and there are still members dedicated to keeping the facilities maintained and improvements made, and of course all the work is totally voluntary.