(L-R) John Clarke, Mike Scott, John Bentham, Phil Storer

The B4RN Awards Tour rolled into Nether Kellet for stop number 9.

We’re sending the awards B4RN won last year out to the communities and volunteers who’ve got the job done of digging in the network over the past decade.

John Bentham, Phil Storer, Mike Scott and John Clarke met at Nether Kellet Village Hall to talk bout their project, which began four years ago.

Phil Storer: “We had a car which was virtually brand new because I was going through the fields with this new car. That’s when we started and that was July ’18.”

Talk began about the demand for B4RN…

John Clarke: “I think for people in the village it’s more of an interest from the younger people with lots of children in the family.”

PS: “That house there – he got 0.9 of a meg.”

John Bentham: “People who used the internet more were pretty fed up with the way the speed dropped down. If they were FaceTiming family away the video would drop out and images freeze. People who needed it for work could see the need.”

Mike Scott: “And that came into its own with lockdown when such a lot of people tried to work from home and kids were having Zoom courses from school. Momentum was helped by lockdown – our next door neighbours’ three kids all came home from university, there was no way anything other than B4RN was going to keep all their computers ticking.”

JB: “But the whole project did suffer slowdown due to Covid. We couldn’t get in people’s gardens and properties and some volunteers understandably pulled back.”

Build on the project began in 2018

Conversation turned to the build itself…

JB: “The initial challenge was getting wayleaves and working out the route. It wasn’t straightforward. For example, getting permission to go through the quarry. The farmers were very good, giving us permission to go through the fields…”

PS: “They practically encouraged us!”

JB: “…and the whole of the village is now ringed by duct and its been a matter of connecting people and leaving duct at boundaries.”

MS: “It’s fair to say Over Kellett got out the blocks before we did and they were helpful, we went to their meetings and tapped into their resources and people. The likes of Lesley Gee. They showed us how they mapped theirs out and invited us to join their work, they were very helpful.”

The group reflected on why they volunteer…

PS: “It’s almost a retirement hobby!”

JB: “When you’re retired, it gets to the stage where you think ‘well, what can you do for the community?’ It [B4RN] helps to pull the community together a bit.”

Mike Scott and John Clarke getting spade awards in 2019

PS: “When we went through the school we had a small army helping us, it was amazing!”

MS: “The benefits for us as people… meeting folk in the village and chatting, we’ve all lived in the village for 40 years but you’ve never had a conversation before. It was great just to get to know neighbours.”

PS: “We have been well catered for going round the village – tea and cakes have been flowing nicely!”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to: Ian Taylor, who kept the records and got in the ditches as well; Mike Proctor; Jonathan Mace; Andrew Butler, and Robin Baines. They also wanted to recognise local landowners Chris Halhead, David Whitaker and Mary Cornthwaite.