(L-R) Roger Gorman, Pip Tedcastle, Martin Smith, David Hall, Glenn Smithers, John Lyons, Colin Wightman.

The B4RN Awards Tour rolled into Preston Richard for stop number 23.

The trophies for the INCA and ISPA prizes – won last year – are heading out to the communities and volunteers who have spent the last 10 years planning and building the B4RN gigabit full-fibre broadband network..

Seven volunteers gathered at Endmoor Village Hall for a picture with the awards and to reflect on their project. They were: John Lyons, Colin Wightman, Glenn Smithers, David Hall, Martin Smith, Pip Tedcastle, and Roger Gorman.

The group have overcome plenty of challenges to connect more than 160 people, but it wasn’t easy…

Glenn Smithers – “It took us a year to get the wayleaves, convincing people that this time – with John leading the group – it was going to succeed and deliver.

“So slow to start with, but once the cabinet was installed and we started actually connecting properties it picked up because people could see it was really happening and took it a bit more seriously.”

Much of the Preston Richard project coincided with the pandemic, which affected sign up and the build…

David Hall – “I knew one customer – he was working from home, his wife was working from home and he had two children trying to do home schooling and he said it was a nightmare before he had B4RN. So it tipped a few people over the edge to sign up.”

GS – “[For the build we had] 5 or 6 six people at two/three metres apart digging out doors…”

John Lyons – “But you don’t want to be within two metres of Colin when he’s swinging his pickaxe! Colin’s the head of our equivalent of the B4RN civils!”

Do the group have any stand out memories?

JL – “Down in ‘the jungle’…”

Martin Smith – “Dodging trees, finding your route, 30-40 metre runs on a wall, back into woods again.”

JL – “At least my grandsons (then aged 16) learned to drive… their other grandfather’s a builder. So he let them loose on my land to learn how to use a digger!

Pip Tedcastle – “There was to be quite a bit of loft work at the school.”

MS – “But we discovered there was no loft, it was just a void!”

GS – “The headteacher was very grateful. She said it’s fantastic what it’s done for the school. With the school it’s save them over £2000 a year which they can spend on other things for the children. It was all done by the community, digging at weekends to get them online.”

“The end’s here somewhere…” – Volunteers digging in ducting in May this year.

And why do they volunteer?

GS – “Bacon butties, chip butties.”

JL – “Just slows Colin down because he eats them all!”

CW – “Keeps me out of mischief!”

JL – “My view was high-speed broadband was essential for local communities. If we don’t pick it up now, we’ll never get it.”

GS – “We knew there was a demand there, most of the group have done it really because they want to improve the community for future generations. It’s something that is needed.”

DH – “For me, it just seemed a no-brainer… [B4RN is] an alternative which is competitively priced with a far superior service.”

JL – “We’ve all developed little specialities. a technical team, an IT team, a legal team, diggers… and I do nothing!”

GS – “I’ll give you a stat – we’ve currently installed 16km of core route, most of it by contractors. However, we’ve dug and buried 33km of 7mm services. Most of it hand-dug by Colin and the volunteer team.”

The Preston Richard team wished to give honourable mentions to: Sam Mason; Veronica Saddleworth; Anna Singer; Paul Laidlaw; William Proctor; and the Mason Twins as well as residents from different parts of the village.