‘Digital detox’ diversification farmer fights to stay offline

A South Ayrshire farmer is attempting to prevent the introduction of mobile phone coverage in her area in a bid to protect her unique “offline” tourism diversification.

Sarah Redman at Creeside Farm is lobbying authorities not to bring 3G, 4G and 5G networks to the area to ensure the spot remains a secluded digital “sanctuary” beside Galloway Forest Park and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

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The planning proposal, thought to be the first of its kind, aims to make the land near Barrhill the UK’s first protected “not-spot”.

The farm, which runs 120 cattle and 500 sheep, opened its shepherd’s hut enterprise in May 2019, with the help of a Leader rural diversification grant. 

“Everyone who stays at our shepherd’s hut actually wants to get away from their phones,” Ms Redman said. “The fact we don’t have wi-fi or much signal is a big selling point.”

Away from it all

The popular escape is marketed on the basis of its uninterrupted views of the River Cree and the Galloway Hills.

The website proclaims: “There is no wi-fi, no phone signal and no hot-tub, but what you do have is books, cards, board-games and a radio to keep you entertained.”

The proposal was not, Ms Redman stressed, seeking to hold up improvements in connectivity across the region, but merely to protect the farm by restricting networks within a small area.

“Improving connectivity around the country is vital to all of our daily lives,” she said. “But as important steps are made towards improving this in rural areas, it’s interesting to consider the impact it might have on some of our much-loved off-grid spots.”

Digital detox

Research carried out by Shackleton Whisky, which is supporting the application to the council, reveals that more than half of British mobile phone users find it impossible to switch off from the technology.

With the average user now spending a minimum of one hour and 26 minutes a day on their phone, 34% of Brits have undertaken some form of “digital detox” to help escape distractions.    

Shackleton Whisky’s Kenny Nicholson said: “As the world becomes more hectic, it’s important to escape every now and then and to protect the places that make that possible.”

Ms Redman’s campaign comes in the week the government unveiled plans to invest £5bn to support the rollout of full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit-capable networks to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the country.

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