(L-R) Andrew Taylor, Bronwen Osborne, Geoff Higgins, Kate Stone, Richard Wilson, Phil Stone

B4RN’s Awards Tour continued on its merry way to stop 8 in Tatham.

We’re sending the INCA and ISPA trophies we won last year out to the volunteers and communities who’ve spent the last decade digging in the full fibre gigabit broadband network.

Six intrepid volunteers – Phil Stone, Kate Stone, Bronwen Osborne, Geoff Higgins, Andrew Taylor and Richard Wilson – met at the cabinet at the Old School for a photo and a chat.

The group said, initially, it was slow going for their parish:

Phil Stone: “In 2011 [after the B4RN Share Launch] there was a lot of excitement and then there was a long pause – probably 2014 – before things locally started to build a bit more momentum.”

Geoff Higgins: “It was when they got to Roeburndale, just before Christmas 2013, that I finally thought ‘my money’s not going to disappear down the drain!'”

Bronwen Osborne: “I went to see the men digging [at Roeburndale] and it was the first time one saw actually what was involved. They were very muddy, very dirty, and very pleased with themselves!”

Andrew Taylor, with tongue in cheek: “I thought I’ll volunteer on Wray and they’ll get to me. I wasn’t thinking about anybody else!”

Kate Stone: “I can remember having a 1Mbps connection that had to be shared amongst all of us and if I was working no one was allowed to do anything! When you’ve been through that, you really do recognise how important B4RN is.

“[It go to a point where we thought] We’re going to have to mobilise everybody to get it here. It probably dawned on a few of us that it was popping up but not getting anywhere near us. We were going to have to do something together – and I think that used to dawn on all the groups at that time… that it’s not just going to come. Start digging!”

Bronwen was Chief Sponge Catcher in 2014.

And start digging they did! The group remembered the challenges they faced:

BO: “There is something waiting for the archaeologists. Underneath one of the roads there is a mole which got half way and got stuck. It’s still there.”

PS: “We had roadcuts, directed moles… and the occasional scaffolding pole!”

KS: “Another critical part is just down there [from the cabinet]. To get to the village there’s a beck with a little footbridge. The council said we had to stay two metres away…”

PS: “At first it was a case of lifting stones out of the bed and using metal staples to keep it in place.”

KS: “The council relented and it’s now across the bridge. Every time I walk over with the dog I think ‘yes!'”

BO: “Chris Conder had very strict instructions that we should never put fibre through when cows are in the field which, unfortunately, we disregarded. It got tied up in the cows’ horns because they got very excited. Chris had to come in her funny little car and sort it out and tell us off!”

GH: “And there was the day we were doing that boggy bit and a lady called Carol Butcher turned up in full Margot gear from The Good Life!”

Then the group remembered the ‘Beast of Lowgill’…

BO: “We had a farmer (Robert Ogden) who produced a machine that was…”

Richard Wilson: “It was a trench-digging thing. Like an enormous chainsaw with buckets on.”

KS: “He found it somewhere and got it running againg.”

PS: “It was very impressive… when it was working!”

Conversation turned to digging along the edge of a forest:

RW: “I spent a fortnight cutting back all the vegetation so a digger could get through. The most terrifying moment of the whole installation was when Robert was digging along a steep bit and the digger tipped – it was a bit like the Italian Job!”

Volunteers cleaning the fibre, 2014.

The group also praised the social side of B4RN:

KS:  “Lots of us got to know lots of others of us that we wouldn’t have got to know.”

BO: “A knock-on effect is that the Parish Council are now doing a lot of work on footpaths and we have a group of volunteers and you can be certain there are people who were involved with B4RN.”

RW: “Well, all the people I know like digging holes in the ground from eight years ago!”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to the following people: Robert Ogden, Edward Mason, John Wilson, Mike Winstanley, Jim Harrison, Andrew McClements.