(L-R) John Elphinstone and George Sheridan

Stop 13 on the B4RN Awards Tour visited a remote farm to celebrate the Clapham project!

We went to Keasden Head with the INCA and ISPA trophies, which were won last year. They’re going out to the volunteers and communities who’ve worked so hard to make B4RN happen over the last ten years.

Farmer Sheila Mason was the wonderfully hospitable host for volunteers Ann Sheridan, George Sheridan and John Elphinstone.

They looked back to the very start and raising funding and interest…

John Elphinstone: “It was raised very quickly which was a reflection of how big the need was.”

Sheila Mason: “The community very much pulled together.”

JE: “Pretty quickly we had half the people [signed up] and I should think now there are relatively few without it.”

Ann Sheridan: “It’s up to about 75%-80%. The thing is, places where we live, we were doing about 0.5Mbps. It was absolutely dire. People in those kind of places couldn’t wait! But take up in the village, where you had reasonable internet, was pretty slow but as more and more things move online, more people wanted it.”

JE: “One of the great motivations from our point of view was we were running our house as a Bed & Breakfast and every time there was a storm the line would go down. On one occasion, it was eight weeks before they could repair it, the following year it was two or three weeks.”

AS: “Given the distances we found we needed contractors. Colin Price, a farmer on the other side of the valley got a moleplough and that really made things go very quickly. The other bits we used diggermen.”

“To Clapham, with love Keasden”, 2016

And how was the terrain…?

JE: *just sighs*

AS: “Variable!”

George Sheridan: “A glacial alluvial with big rocks!”

AS: “Not far from the bridge up Keasden Beck we had to bring it up through a bit of woodland. It was rock. Bowland Shale. It was sharp. That is not a dig I would like to repeat!”

JE: “I spent a lot of time just digging with mud up to my waist!”

Conversation turned to any particular challenges….

JE: “Pretty much this time of year [January / February] – snow and rain and mud! In a trench.”

AS: “One thing stands out… which shows what B4RN can do. We had to take the duct to a farm towards Eldroth. They had a problem in that their existing line had been cut. We got fibre up to them faster than BT repaired the broken line!”

What was the need for B4RN…?

JE: “I remember being out with someone on the route out to Clapham Woods. He’d asked me what my connection need was. Turned out he was a teacher of English as a foreign language. His clients were in Thailand and Hong Kong.”

AS: “He used to have to go and do his lessons sitting in his car at Clapham Station where there was decent mobile signal.”

And how about the social side of B4RN…?

AS: “It helped us make a lot of friends. We’d been here about ten years, you went from just knowing people to suddenly becoming friends.”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to: Simon Peach, who did a lot of the planning; Michael & Norma Stevenson, for their fundraising and being the catering committee; Ian Jones, who was a qualified civil engineer.

A Farmer on B4RN

Our host for this Awards Tour stop was Sheila Mason at Keasden Head farm where, alongside farming duties, they run educational and wellbeing visits.

Sheila told us how having B4RN as helped: “The difference has been absolutely fabulous. Two nights ago, two o’ clock in the morning. We came up to calve a cow. We had our mobile phone with us but, of course, there’s no signal here but we could connect to the Wi-Fi. So we actually rang our local vets at two in the morning, connected to the Wi-Fi.”

Sheila continued to talk about their school visits: “We’ve been running about 14 years. As time’s gone by we’ve been able to improve facilities. When B4RN came in and got us a connection to the classroom it brought us up to speed. We use it with cameras across the farm, everything’s so quick. Things are going from strength to strength. We work with mental health as well, so we’ve lots of services to many groups.”