Unplug from all things digital and reconnect with yourself, friends, nature and the present moment on a digital detox in West Sussex.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but too much time ogling a screen can take its toll on your physical and mental health, particularly within the current climate.
West Sussex has everything you need to switch off the digital noise and all within easy reach of London. Instead of scrolling endless feeds and news articles, you could paddle past a kingfisher, go wild swimming, learn to use a compass in the beautiful South Downs National Park, chat around a campfire or simply gaze at the stars – the South Downs International Dark Sky Reserve puts on a far more memorable display than any screen!
You’ll come away feeling calmer, more energised, focused and productive – and probably sleep better, too.
Travelling soon? Please check opening dates and arrangements with individual businesses and operators.
Spending time in nature improves your mood, reduces stress and bolsters your confidence, so make a beeline for one of the wildlife havens that thrive across West Sussex.
Knepp Wildland Project, a pioneering rewilding scheme, is a hotspot for rarer species such as cuckoos, turtle doves, nesting white storks and purple emperor butterflies. Learn more on one of the expert-led safaris, which cover everything from butterflies and trees to the herds of old English longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs that are central to the ecology of rewilding. By night, swap listen to the melodies of one of Britain’s largest concentration of nightingales. (Tip: Check dates and book ahead – places are quickly snapped up)
A walk in RSPB Pulborough Brooks will keep you rooted in the moment, all year round. Lapwings put on acrobatic displays in spring and come summer, glowworms twinkle in the undergrowth at dusk. Fungi and amber hues are dominant in the autumn, while flocks of colourful wigeon wheel through the winter sky.
WWT Arundel Wetlands’ lakes, channels and waterfalls harbour all manner of wildlife, including cuckoos, cormorants, pipistrelle bats and tufted ducks. Take a free boat safari through the reed beds to spot kingfishers, water voles and sparrowhawks or watch dragonflies clash over the prime perches as you stroll along the boardwalk. You won’t even think to check your phone when you’re keeping watch from one of the reserve’s hides!
Plan activities that leave zero bandwidth for digital distractions.
Pied a Terre Adventures runs guided walking tours and courses to help improve your outdoor skills and reconnect with nature.
“People are becoming wary of venturing into the outdoors – they’re tied to devices for navigation.
I want to sheep-dip people into the great outdoors! Slow down, enjoy it and get those endorphins flowing!”
– Richard, Adventure Director
PaT’s Open the Map course will help you to feel confident exploring without relying on digital devices. You’ll learn to use a map and compass as you navigate the network of footpaths across the South Downs National Park. By the end of the day, you’ll be able to plan walking routes using grid references, contours and land features.
Paddlesports are another effective way to unplug. Here’s what Andi of Glo Wellbeing, who runs a SUP concession in Goring by Sea, has to say about learning to stand-up paddleboard:
“Joy, laughter, heightened energy, exercising without even knowing it, a feeling of accomplishment – and most importantly, without a screen in sight!” – Andi, Glo Wellbeing
The Kayak Coach will take you on a guided kayaking tour of the beautiful River Arun. Don’t get too relaxed though, this tidal river has the second-fastest flow in England, so keep your attention on the water, not your timeline!
There are paddleboarding schools on waterways across West Sussex. Check out our beginners guide to paddleboarding in West Sussex to plan your paddle-based digital detox.
Planning on travelling soon? Remember to check your dates and arrangements with individual businesses before you travel.
The right place to stay can make or break your digital detox. Getting back to nature is the whole point at Knepp Wildland Safaris. Book one of the estate’s shepherd’s huts, bell tents, yurts or tree houses, or pitch your own tent in a wildflower meadow on the edge of an ancient forest. After sunset, the only lighting comes from the atmospheric fire pits, letting the stars take centre stage.
“Switch off, put your phones away and take in the nature and wildlife around you.” – Rachel, campsite manager, Knepp Safaris
Family-friendly Wild Boar Wood Campsite is an entirely off-grid camping experience. The pre-erected bell tents are spread throughout semi-ancient woodland that’s carpeted with bluebells in spring. Instead of scrolling, spend time building dens, making campfires and stargazing. The dawn chorus is a much more pleasant wake-up call than your smartphone’s blaring beep-beep.
Surround yourself with viticulture in one of Ashling Park Estate’s new luxury lodges (due to open in 2020). Designed by Amazing Spaces presenter, William Hardie, the lodges make the most of the countryside views – and the sunny climate that’s so good for Ashling’s grapevines is bound to help reduce your screen time too.
Hire a boat from Riverside Tea Rooms, on the banks of the River Arun in Amberley, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to a time before ‘digital’ was even a thing.
“It’s all very Swallows & Amazons, with willows draping down to the water,” – Owners, Francesca and Terry.
Steer your four-stroke engine boat to Arundel, where you can moor up for a picnic. Along the way you might see swans, red kites, herons, kingfishers and, if you’re really lucky, a lost seal who has made his home in these waters!
Riverside Tea Rooms also do mountain bike hire, so you can pick up a pre-booked packed lunch from the tea rooms before pedalling east or west along the 100-mile (160km) South Downs Way, or set off to explore your pick of the 745 miles (1,200km) of bike-friendly bridleways that lace through the South Downs National Park.
Combine boat and bike hire for the sort of adventure that makes taking a break from tech a walk in the park!
West Sussex has plenty of yoga classes, workshops and tranquil retreats in beautiful places to help you find balance in a fast-paced world.
Hone your downward dog immersed in nature at The Yoga Garden, which holds classes and workshops in two cosy yurts on the Knepp estate.
“It’s a lovely place for yoga. Practising to the sound of the morning birds is part of the whole Yoga Garden/Knepp ethos of back to nature. In the evening, you can hear the owls hunting and people taking a last dip before they head back to the campsite.”
– Ali, Yoga Garden Instructor
Boost the balancing effect of yoga and try SUP yoga. Doing your asanas outside on a stand-up paddleboard works the core harder and brings nature closer – plus, it makes it trickier to check your phone. Moxie Unleashed runs bespoke sessions in various locations.
Cowdray Hall, a holistic country estate in the heart of the South Downs, has a full programme of yoga, meditation and chanting classes. Their range of wellbeing workshops can help you tune out the noise of notifications too – quite literally, in the case of its Sound Bath sessions!
If you’re staying at Knepp or attending a yoga class at The Yoga Garden, dive into the on-site wild swimming pond for a fish-eye view of moorhens, coots and kingfishers.
It’s not unusual for Niki Perry to follow classes at her yoga studio in Sidlesham Common with a cold-water swim in the sea at nearby West Wittering. During the colder months, Niki runs cold-water swimming workshops and says that yoga and an icy dip are perfect partners.
“Yoga teaches you to use your breath to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more control you have over your breath, the more control you have over your mind.” – Niki Perry
And the more control you have over your mind, the easier it is to keep your thoughts from straying into digital territory!
There’s an unexpected benefit to baking your own bread, says Louise, who runs baking courses at The Artisan Bakehouse.
“Kneading can actually be quite meditative and relaxing,”
Join a breadmaking or sourdough workshop to arm yourself with a lifelong skill – plus you’ll be too busy nurturing your sourdough starter to get distracted by social media at home. The Artisan Bakehouse has even been working on an outdoor Bake Off style tent for responsible, socially distanced classes.
Which of these ideas make it on your #WestSussexWishlist?