Awards Tour: Calder Vale
August 17th, 2022
Author: Mark Gray
Posted In: Latest news
Stop 26 on the Awards Tour and this time we’re in Calder Vale!
We’re taking the INCA and ISPA trophies – won last year – around the communities who’ve given their time, effort and expertise as volunteers over the last decade to make B4RN happen where they are.
We joined this group as they gathered to celebrate the completion of their project at the Calder Vale Club with a hotpot tea!
Three of the group – Tom Walmsley, John Ibbison and Tim Forshaw – took the time to reflect on their B4RN project…
What was the need for better connectivity?
John Ibbison – “In Calder Vale, there is no mobile signal. The internet was absolutely appalling. I took on the challenge, spoke to B4RN and it mushroomed.”
Tim Forshaw – “About 1Mbps on a good day. If you’ve got a family of school-age children having to share out the time on the landline. When we got down to lockdown and Covid, B4RN became mission critical. It really was an absolute game-changer for the community. It’s put Calder Vale back on the map. If you don’t have good broadband you can’t attract young families, then the school eventually closes, and it becomes a less and less attractive place to live.
How did it all start?
TF – “John, Tom and myself realised in order to keep Calder Vale alive and thriving you’ve got to get broadband. The big providers weren’t really interested because there was no money in it. We got a band of volunteers together and we got it done, a great achievement!”
JI – “The pain-gain ration is pretty low! The gigabit voucher scheme was really helpful for us. We came through the other end.”
TF – “The Mill – one of the few working ones in the country. They own a lot of land that we could pass over. The MD was extremely supportive – Bob Quick – they provided a wayleave for all their properties and land. Very helpful.”
JI – “We’ve actually done three parishes, one of which is Claughton, which is basically a country estate. The family allowed wayleaves throughout and instructed estate workers to fit the B4RN cables for us!”
Tom Walmsley – “[That was] 40 farms!”
Any particular memories?
JI – “We had some classic days where volunteers poured out and we did some pretty impressive work.”
TW – “The first big job was putting the base in for the cabinet. We decided to do it with volunteers. John lent us his little digger. A lot of people turned out with the right skills and the right attitude.”
JI – “I did a bit of arm-twisting in the background! Also, going round the back of Calder Vale Village Hall. It was on a really steep bank. About 20 of us turned up. We achieved the impossible in half a day.”
TF – “We dug this one trench, meandered it round the beds, neatly stacked everything. We laid the trunking. Swept the garden. When the owner came along he said I can’t see where you’ve been. That was a lovely feeling.”
TW – “We crossed the motorway to do the Creamery Industrial Estate. To get it there we had to go down a very steep bank – about 70m – that was all hand dig. A very big undertaking. It wasn’t easy!”
JI – “I recall one Saturday a neighbour said I’ll come and give you a hand. The lad turned up with a six-tonne excavator. It was horrendous weather, raining horizontally. We put in 150metres in a day.”
TW – “There’s a photo in the hall… you’re digging in the pouring rain on the moorland and it was liquid mud! I remember it pouring back into the hole!”
What difference has B4RN made to you and your community?
JI – “I know of one person that’s taken the service and his business has been able to expand and grow. In theory, in time, he’ll employ local people.”
TF – “Very satisfying when we’d done it. The day the first customers went live. It had been a very long day, blowing the fibre and splicing it. Suddenly all these people started having it and it really has been a life-changer. They didn’t realise it would be this good and the doors this would open. I still remember that day well, 8pm and absolutely exhausted. but the sense of achievement for everybody – to say, ‘we are now live!'”
TW – “I was just retiring. I was interested in B4RN, I’d been watching it for years and it got to Oakenclough. I’m very pleased I took up the challenge and helped that way.”
TF – “Without Tom, this would not have been a success. Weeks, months, years… stuck through it all the way through, I’d give the man a medal!”
TW– “So many people who helped in small ways – perhaps just gave a wayleave…”
JI – “Or just a word of encouragement was enough to help it go forward.”
A special mention to Christina Campion, without her hard work and dedication the project simply would not have happened.
The group wished to give honourable mentions to: John Proctor; Tim Hodgkiss; and James Butler.