Witherslack Volunteers Bring B4RN To 200+ Customers
August 30th, 2022
Author: Mark Gray
Posted In: Latest news
“Mission accomplished” – quote from the final newsletter by the Witherslack, Ulpha and Meathop B4RN group.
Volunteers in Witherslack, Ulpha and Meathop (WUM) can look forward to a well-earned rest after bringing more than 200 properties live on B4RN’s gigabit full fibre broadband network.
The prospect of getting locals hyperfast internet was first mooted more than three years ago. The WUM group had a target of connecting 204 properties (50% of homes and business in the parish) and they have surpassed that! Quite an achievement for the community. This has been a huge project and a large number of connections in a difficult and challenging terrain.
Chair of the local B4RN group, Stephen Ratcliffe, said: “The Witherslack community has a long history of self-help, including opening our local community shop and bringing forward much needed housing through our local community trust. Getting B4RN to all who live or work in our parish, irrespective of how remote they are, was the natural thing to do – it was all or nothing. After four years of activity, including through the challenges of Covid, our local volunteer team is now standing down with mission accomplished! Our endeavours are well captured within our Platinum Jubilee time capsule but our one lasting hope is that our community will be able to prosper and be more resilient, now aided by up-to-date technology.”
One very happy customer is Press & PR expert, Karen Barden, who’s based in Witherslack. She wrote of the WUM project: “B4RN’s volunteers, who have worked tirelessly on bringing this superb technology into our lives, cannot be praised highly enough. Let’s face it, it’s brilliant, fantastic, transformational, life-enhancing and testimony to them all.
“Our community can work better, those running businesses here, or working from home, our schools, shop, pub, students, pupils, are all enriched by internet speeds we couldn’t have dreamed possible once. And then there’s Netflix without a flicker, Zoom minus a single frozen frame, Microsoft Teams where you could be in a physical rather than virtual meeting, reception is so good.
“We know the volunteers climbed mountains to achieve this on our behalf and are eternally grateful for their herculean efforts in quite literally changing the technological face of Witherslack, Ulpha, Meathop and Foulshaw.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Ash Madden – resident and member of the local B4RN Group: “We can all get on with our lives and take part in the 21st century (at last). The speed is great and means we no longer need to contend with broken up video, conference calls and slow downloads. For me, it’s equally important to have reliable connectivity which means we can plan ahead and participate with the outside world with confidence.”
As with all B4RN projects, getting the community hubs connected was a big driver. These included the Dean Barwick School; the Community Shop; and the Parish Hall.
Linda Park is Chairman of Witherslack Parish Hall Committee: “Those hiring our parish hall, including our youth club and local Women’s Institute, now have access to superfast broadband. Additionally, we’ve created a new business suite in our committee room with six IT stations, which can be rented out on an hourly basis. Also, if and when parts of the network, or other networks go down, in periods of storms or local power outages, then any in our community will be able to have access to back-up at our parish hall.”
With just a handful of connections left to make over the next few months (which require some civil engineering work by B4RN), the WUM group will disband.
Prominent local volunteer, Rick Fry, wrote: “Getting fast broadband into the parish has been hard work, but for those connected we hope the rewards are evident. It’s been an interesting, demanding and time-consuming experience, and the volunteers are delighted with what has been achieved. We thank everyone who has supported this project – through investments, wayleaves and/or signing up to the new service.”
B4RN Project Build Coordinator Felicity Greenwood said: “Thank you so much to the landowners of the Witherslack area for providing access and wayleaves to build the B4RN network. With your generosity we have been able to reach those most affected by poor broadband in the hardest to reach rural locations.
“I would also like to thank the Witherslack B4RN volunteer group so much for your willingness to donate your time and talent. Your efforts have contributed greatly to the success of this project; it would not have been the same without your involvement.
“Your support of B4RN’s mission has allowed us to provide world leading broadband to serve 220 people in the community so far and a connection ready for those who wish to take B4RN in the future.”
B4RN’s Head of Infrastructure, Nick Hall, said: “The project presented the team with a number of physical barriers to construction including crossing the main arterial road A590 and the rivers Winster and Gilpin.
“Our contractor, Tony Middleton, worked tirelessly to ensure the project was delivered in a timely manner and worked closely with Landowners and Farmers to successfully install the main routes without complaint.”
The full WUM volunteer team is: Niels Christiansen; John Geldard; Ian George; Steve Graham; Rick Fry; Penny Hitchin; Keith McClure; Ashley Madden; Mark Palacio; Steve Ratcliffe; Nick Stanley; Nigel Wilkinson