digital detox (noun, informal)
A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
I watched good old Ben Fogle on TV last night, doing what he does best; shacking up with folks who have turned their back on modern life and live off-grid, without the interference of smartphones and other creepy devices (I don’t know why I said that, I love mine). Anyway, I heard an alarming statistic: mobile phone owners touch their phone on average over 2500 times a day. A day? And this is just the average - people in the top 10% can be heading towards 5500. I trust Ben completely, but I had to check out this fact and worryingly it is true. No real surprise then, that there is also a lot of evidence to suggest this addiction to screens is having a detrimental effect on our generation’s mental health. Which got me a) panicking and b) thinking about the idea of a digital detox - could I do it? Could my family? We are avid campers and I do know that camping outdoors has huge mental health benefits; fresh air, better sleep, better moods, more exercise, less stress...the list goes on. The Institute of Education in Plymouth found that children who camp at least once a year go on to do better at school as well as being healthier and happier. Now, if you combine camping outdoors with a digital detox, you could be onto a winner. No electricity. No wifi. No phone coverage. No digital distractions. No pollution. There are some beautiful campsites in the UK that offer a wifi-free (no-fi? lo-fi?) holiday and which simply allow you to get away from it all, feel present in the moment, appreciate the simpler things in life and connect with nature and those around us. Sounds too much? Read on.....I think I can inspire you to give it a try.
Situated just two hours from London, in possibly one of the most idyllic areas of the West Wiltshire Downs, lies Chalke Valley Camping, which comprises of six very comfortably furnished bell tents, hot showers, toilets, and not much more. Bear Grylls meets Joanna Lumley here: back to nature with lashings of class. It is proudly and firmly off-grid; no 4G, no Wifi and no electricity; just abundant wildlife, stunning sunsets and vast, star-filled skies. You are encouraged to leave your hectic life behind and get back to enjoying nature and the great outdoors. Spend your evenings outside your candle-lit bell tent, playing cards around the campfire and enjoying the panoramic views across the downs.
Ynys Affalon Tree Tents were the first ever "tree tent glamping hotel" in the UK. I love the fact that there is such a thing. Anyhow, this is a whole new kind of awesome. With architectural bad-ass the like you have never seen before, these gorgeous canvas pods are suspended from the branches of the woodland, high above a mountain brook, on an 80 acre private estate near Builth Wells in Powys. It is the ideal place for a digital detox; just unplug and escape everyday life while marvelling at your extraordinary surroundings from your extraordinary living quarters (choose the copper-clad "Conker" or the bright red "Dragons Egg" pod among others). Although immersed in nature and off-grid, the tree tents do not skimp on luxury; each is completely secluded, with its own kitchen area, shower and toilet on a private deck outside your bedroom, and a seating area and firepit down below. Inside the tree tent you will find a comfy double bed (which folds to a sofa in the day) and a woodburning stove. Best bit: the nearest mobile signal is a ten minute walk away, so there's no temptation to post a selfie to Instagram while you are watching the red kites circling above and the wildlife foraging below. This place is about being in the present. The real world. Not the virtual one. Bliss.
You are in very experienced hands when you visit The Forge. The husband and wife team behind this unique glamping experience have created a sanctuary (and I don't bandy that word around lightly), offering guests the chance to focus on their mental health and wellbeing, rejuvenate, connect with nature and rediscover (or discover) a love of the great outdoors. The accommodation is unashamedly gorgeous - bell tents and a gypsy caravan - with everything you need for the ultimate relaxing break. Book onto one of their digital detox retreats which offer a chance to ditch the tech and instead try bushcraft, nature experiences and wild swimming, among other things. A true love and appreciation of the world around us is at the heart of everything they do here, and they want to spread the word; their sustainable living projects (growing food, planting native trees) and ideas and are shared happily with guests - if you wanted to have a go at setting up yourself this is a great place to start. Located in stunning North Wales, with far-reaching views across the Berwyn and Snowdonia ranges, it is the perfect spot to escape to and leave your stresses at the door. You might not be the same person when you leave....
Shipwreck yourself aboard Oyster, moored up on a picturesque riverbank in the Salcombe-Kingston Estuary in Devon. This beautifully restored Dutch barge is isolated, secluded, close to nature and completely off-grid; there is no Wi-fi and no mod cons - perfect for couples or solo travellers who want to escape it all and get back to the basics of living in nature. The boat is full of character, all portholes and dark wooden panelling, and contains a double bed, a small stove, pots and pans, a toilet (a small one on the boat but a larger composting toilet and shower just up on the bank) and chairs for sitting on the foreshore and watching the Salcombe boats come in. You can't set sail yourself, but Oyster is an excellent place to walk from - lots of inlets, beaches and creeks to explore, plus the ferry to Salcombe is a 20 minute walk away if you need supplies. There is no need for a car, so it can be a detox in more ways than one and a real step back from the stresses of modern life.
The idea of going truly wild camping intrigues me and scares me at the same time. I want to be on my own pitch, unable to see or hear anyone else....but I kinda want the toilet and shower facilities too. This is why the folks at Badgellswood Campsite have created something magical. The campsite (I use this word loosely because it is a wonderfully wild and unstructured affair) is in a 30 acre corner of 250 acre Whitehorse Wood in Kent, and here you are allowed to enjoy the ancient woodland in its completely natural, overgrown form. But! - there are composting loos, hot showers and washing up facilities, so you do have a few luxuries. Choose to head off deep into the woods, car-less and with only a trail of breadcrumbs to guide you back (not quite but close), or choose to set up in a different neck of the woods (literally), slightly closer to your car if this makes life easier. It's all gorgeous nonetheless. With no phone signal or internet, you are instead encouraged to do other things: Forest Bathing (fyi this is not swimming), bushcraft, wildlife spotting or walking along the beautiful wildflower nature trails. A true off-grid woodland escape.
Possibly the best FAQ section ever:
Q: IS THERE WIFI?
A: This is a digital detox experience. No wi-fi or mobile reception. No emails, no messages just total relaxation surrounded by nature!
In the heart of the Welsh countryside, climb the boughs of a huge ash tree and immerse yourself in this tranquil and utterly secluded woodland hideaway in the Cambrian Mountains. Your treehouse is extremely environmentally friendly and off-grid, with solar panels providing the renewable electricity source for the hot, outdoor waterfall shower, with a woodburner inside to keep you cosy on a cold evening. The wraparound balcony provides stunning panoramic views and a place to watch the sun come up or the stars at night, and there are endless walks below to explore the beautiful nature around you. Yes, places like this do exist. Just don't tell everyone.....
A relaxed camping experience here at Baysbrown Farm near Ambleside in Cumbria; they don't take bookings, but instead ask you to come along and camp when you fancy it, rather than making advanced plans and having to stick to them. I rather like that. It gets you in the right mental place for unplugging from the digital world and relaxing into the surroundings of this stunning 800 acre working farm. Although, just how much relaxing you do here is up to you; situated in between the glorious Lake District peaks, you can start the Scarfell Pike climb (Englands highest mountain) directly from the campsite. It is happily old school camping here - just some rolling fields to pitch your tent and showers and toilets. Drinking water is available so you can rehydrate after all that hiking. There is no wifi and no electricity. The views from the campsite are nothing short of spectacular and it is a superb spot for walking, running, climbing, bouldering and ghyll scrambling. A world away from the chaos and stresses of modern life.
This one is extreme. If you want to do a cold turkey digital detox, lock up your phone, throw away the key and enjoy the pure abstinence of anything digital, then this is the place for you. About an hour north of London, over-stressed screen addicts (and let's face it, most of us are) can book a three day digital retreat in a cabin where you are encouraged (sorry, I mean forced) to unplug from your devices and recharge. The co-creators of Unplugged know a thing or two about being slaves to a smartphone and the benefits of a silent retreat, so you are in good hands. In your gorgeously comfy and secluded cabin, you will find a welcome box, with a polaroid camera, a customised map to explore the area and postcards to send to your friends to tell them how zen you are. You can hike around, cook delicious meals, visit a pub, write a book.....unleash your new-found creativity. When you emerge - blinking - into the blue screened world, fully charged, it could be the start of a whole new you.
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