(L-R) James Mawdslsey, Richard Murray, Gary Mawdsley, Chris Benson, Geoff Walker, William Mawdsley, Marjorie Murray, Martin Coombs, Duncan Hamlett

It’s stop 14 on the B4RN Awards Tour at Casterton!

We’re taking the INCA and ISPA trophies – won last year – out to the volunteers and communities who’ve dug in the network for the last ten years.

Nine volunteers (and three dogs) congregated under a crossroads sign showing the way to Bullpot (more on that below), namely: Marjorie Murray, Richard Murray, Gary Mawdsley, William Mawdsley, James Mawdsley, Martin Coombs, Duncan Hamlett, Chris Benson, and Geoff Walker.

They stopped for a picture with the awards and then reminisced about their build, looking back to the very beginning…

Marjorie Murray – “Well, it was this young man [points to William] who persuaded us that the village needed it!

“The hard work was persuading people to understand what it was. Eventually it sort of percolated through. There was a constant core – like the Mawdsley family, committee members and helpers – who turned up with spades every weekend. We became quite a slick team.”

Geoff Walker – “You assume you’re going to be willing amateurs and then you realise the skill level far exceeds what you imagine. I was amazed how much people knew. From parish boundaries, to infrastructure, pipes and engineering.”

Chris Benson – “Ultimately it’s self-help as opposed to waiting for somebody else to do it for you. This is probably the last major piece of infrastructure.”

And the significance of meeting under the sign?

MM – “Going up to Bullpot the house on the top of the fell and the core route coming from Cowan Bridge and onwards to Dent. ”

Martin Coombs – “We think it’s the longest 7mm from Bullpot down to Barbondale, just short of 4 or 5km. For the Red Rose Caving Club, they got sponsorship from the Yorkshire Dales National Park and they’ve now got a National Centre and library for caving up at Bullpot. Which is a tremendous result.”

Volunteers threading ducting inside a protective pipe, 2016

A real example of B4RN connecting every property in a parish…

Richard Murray – “In term of its name [Broadband for the Rural North] it says so ‘on the can’ doesn’t it? Doesn’t matter how far away you are or how isolated you are. This isolated house on the fell has more bandwidth than a corporation in the middle of Manchester. That’s an incredible achievement.”

Duncan Hamlett – “No one got missed out. Everyone that wanted it got it.”

What difference has it made?

MM – “Gary’s a person who relies on it for his business. He was so desperate to make use of it he used to go sit in the church because it had B4RN before him!”

Gary Mawdsley – “It’s become like any other utility. You know it’s there and you take it for granted. Whereas before it was always a stress. It’s just there and you assume it always will be there, no problem.

“We’re on a generator as well, during the big power outage in November [caused by Storm Arwen] B4RN was still there if you ran the router on a generator.

“I and my colleagues work entirely in the cloud with thin desktop interfaces – we need to be ‘always on’ and always responsive. We no longer need to work in isolation.”

Talk turned to the social side of a B4RN project…

MC – “I was ‘brand new’ here. Certainly I got to meet people much more quickly than I would’ve done otherwise…”

GW – “Same for me I was in the process of moving in. It was great – I knew 15/20 people within the first weekend!”

MM – “And I now know most householders in Casterton!”

Things wrapped with one volunteer recalling leaving their old supplier…

MC – “I just thought of when I rang up to cancel my pre-existing broadband. I told them my speeds. He looked up what they could manage and he said, ‘yeah, I can see why you’re going with that!'”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to: Raymond Gott, who was involved from start-to-finish; and exceptional committee and team of volunteers; and to major landowners Steve Woodhouse and David Metcalfe.

William and James Mawdsley, 2017. William was presented with this picture as B4RN in Casterton was his idea!