(L-R) Paul Atkinson, Eve Simpson, John Dickinson, Ian Rooke, Sue Prickett, Michael Dugdale, Elizabeth Rooke, Liz Magennis, Margaret Armitstead

We’re up to stop 17 on the Awards Tour, this time to Hutton Roof!

The INCA and ISPA trophies were won last year, and they’re going round to the volunteers and communities who’ve worked so hard to make the B4RN gigabit full fibre broadband network a reality.

Nine ex-B4RNstormers turned out at the Village Hall for a photo with the prizes and to remember their project, namely Eve Simpson, John Dickinson, Elisabeth Rooke, Ian Rooke, Paul Atkinson, Margaret Armitstead, Liz Magennis, Sue Prickett and Michael Dugdale.

The conversation started with what demand was like…

John Dickinson – “It was easy to sign people up. To get something that would work, rather than BT, which didn’t. [We’d have] 0.5 to 1.5Mbps.

Paul Atkinson – “On a good day!”

Eve Simpson – “So everybody wanted it. But I think it took a while understanding what it involved, the concept. Once it started, seeing it was really going to happen, then it took off.”

JD – “Out of about a hundred there were one or two that needed an explanation. You just didn’t understand what you hadn’t got!”

Sue Prickett – “But now with the Covid thing and everybody working from home, it’s made a huge difference!”

Hutton Roof volunteers with Frank ‘the Blow’, 2016

Talk turned to the impact on the villagers themselves…

ES – “What I particularly remember is how everybody joined in, especially the guys form the village. Because often it’s the women who are involved in village things. We met loads of people we’d never met before.”

Ian Rooke – “People who’d been in the village for years had never spoken to each other.”

Liz Magennis – “You used to find strange people walking up and down your yard!”

IR – “Other villages helped out. Top end of Whittington, some really good breakfasts!”

ES – “We went there to learn and help. Then they helped us get it up to here.”

JD – “That’s the biggest thing I miss actually, the breakfasts!”

PA – “Surprising who came out for cake!”

LM – “It was a small price to pay really for somebody digging a trench.”

Memories of the digging…?

B4RN on its way to Hutton Roof, 2016

JD – “We did a road crossing, I remember, then we went up round the back of the village with a small digger…”

ES – “We came across a field over there, you could just see, 2-3km, just kept going.”

IR– “It was a huge geological and geographical exercise, [learning about] soils and rocks, stratum. Losing moleploughs. Lost the mole at one point and dug through 12ft of shale to find it!”

ES – “We had the thing with the vaccuum cleaner. bringing the trunking to the box here…”

JD – “We didn’t have a draw string, so we tied a plastic bag on the end of string, stuffed it into the pipe, and put a Henry [vacuum cleaner] on the other end. Whumf!”

IR – “[I remember] trying to keep everything together without Ted the sheepdog picking it up and running off with it, wanting to play all day!”

JD – “The [story of] the metre long drill bit! It wasn’t coming out… yet it was still going in! It had hit a very hard piece of rock, one of these blue river rocks. It’d bent and was going down into the wall.”

IR – “Humorous times too when coming under the stream. There was a big hedgerow, a ditch, then a stream, two inches deep. We had to go well under it. So we’re picking and shovelling and there’s a mini-digger. I thought ‘Oh, I need me shovel’ on the other side. Meanwhile, this two inch stream is now five foot deep!”

What difference had B4RN made to everyday life?

IR – “I can do a bank transfer without waiting three days!”

JD – “Nobody complains about the speed anymore, it’s just ‘go’.”

LM – “You don’t get ‘timed out’. You can download pictures. You can watch Youtube without it stopping.”

JD – “My daughter had a wedding photography business. We kept going down to Arkholme Village Hall [which had B4RN] to upload the photographs.”

LM – “My son-in-law works from our house sometimes and he gets faster internet here than he does at his desk in London.”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to: Nick Hall; Adrian Taylor & James Taylor; and Marilyn Edwards (who is sadly no longer with us) – she was very much behind getting it going.

Nick Hall, now Head of Infrastructure at B4RN, gets his spade, 2016